Ministers who are part of the National Command Council once again gave an update on a variety of issues at a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday. Among the issues discussed were grant payments, assistance to South Africans who are still stranded abroad, transport issues and worker-related issues.
In the video below, the Inter-Ministerial committee briefs the media:
Close to 1500 South Africans stranded
There are 1 474 South Africans stranded around the world, some in high-risk countries. The group is made up of 723 students, 204 workers, and 224 tourists. The status of the remaining 320 has not been disclosed.
The Department of International Relations says the number is just those who have come forward through its missions and is likely to increase.
It says priority assistance will be given to those grounded at airports, stuck without accommodation, the elderly and sick.
“As you are aware, numerous countries across the world have implemented lockdowns, which entail the closing of airspaces as well as land and sea borders,” says International Relations Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor.
She adds that “Our missions, where possible, will continue to render consular services, including negotiating with the governments where there are lockdowns in order to facilitate the movement of stranded South Africans.”
South Africa’s 21-day lockdown prohibits the movement of people and for non-essential businesses to open. But regulations are being flouted.
First, it appears that some employers who are not delivering essential services and goods are forcing their employees to work. Employers are either unaware or choose to ignore the provisions of the national disaster legislation and regulations which only provide for essential services and production to continue at this time.
In terms of Regulation 11g, this is a criminal offence and puts at risk not only those employees, but all who they are in contact with and goes against the call for as many of us as possible to “stay at home”.
Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi has expressed concern that some employers are forcing employees to take unpaid leave during the 21-day lockdown period.
Nxesi called upon employers to act in a manner that promotes social solidarity, and not to shift the burden of the lockdown onto workers. He also said that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) cannot deal with the millions of individual claims that are expected.
“It is important though that all parties understand that the UIF cannot deal with the millions of the individual claims which will just come in the same period. This will lead to delays in the processing of such claims. Rather, we have put in place systems to pay out UIF benefits through the companies, sectoral associations and bargaining councils,” says Nxesi.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu says although there were a few glitches, the payment of grants went well. She says challenges experienced included overcrowding and the late arrival of cash at some pay-points.
“Some of the challenges that we faced yesterday was overcrowding. And long queues were the key challenge experience across payment value chain, particularly in shopping malls and retail outlets. CSG beneficiaries also came in large numbers despite the call for dedicating the 30th and 31st. Social distancing compliance and application of hygiene guidelines required improvement,” says Zulu.
SASSA beneficiaries commend payouts efficiency
— GCIS Media Liaison (@GCISMedia) March 31, 2020
The Minister of Small Business Development Khumbudzo Ntshavheni outlined qualifying criteria assistance to tuckshops during the lockdown period. Ntshavheni reiterated that qualifying tuckshop owners should be South African.
SARS and UIF
“The spaza shops must be owned, managed and operated and the spaza shop must be willing to register on the CIPC, SARS and UIF, as I have indicated and that there will be dedicated support to assist them with those registrations and they must give us if they claim to have a bank account. They must give us proof of banking and they must register on SMME-SA and there is assistance available for that and spaza shops must hold permit to trade,” says Ntshavheni.
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the repatriation of foreign nationals from South Africa to their countries of origin has to comply with the current lockdown regulations.
He says the countries should transport their own nationals, and that the crews of planes sent to pick them up are not allowed to disembark.
FULL STATEMENT | MINISTER @MbalulaFikile
31 MARCH 2020.
— MEDIA LIAISON | Esethu Hasane (@EsethuOnDuty) March 31, 2020
“All international and domestic passenger flights are still prohibited irrespective of the risk category of the country of origin except those flights, specially authorised by the Ministry of Transport for the evacuation of South African nationals in foreign countries. With regard to the repatriations, the repatriation of foreign nationals from South Africa back to their respective countries is allowed.”
In this video below Transport Minister Mbalula addresses the media:
In the video below, ministers field questions from the media: