Today’s latest news and headlines, Wednesday 1 July

Stay informed and up to date with all the latest news in South Africa by reviewing the day’s major headlines on Wednesday 1 July.

As calls for South Africa’s hardest-hit districts to return to tighter lockdown levels grows louder, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is forced to confront the logistical issues presented by government’s risk-adjusted, district-based approach. Meanwhile, the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) controversial tender dealings come under the microscope.

TODAY’S LATEST NEWS IN SOUTH AFRICA, Wednesday 1 July

A return to hard lockdown: Mkhize’s last resort

Parts of South Africa could be subjected to harsher restrictions within the Disaster Management Act but only as a last resort. This was confirmed by Minister Mkhize who said that while the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had not yet made a finite decision regarding the implementation of government’s district-based prevention scheme, the option to rescind personal freedoms in coronavirus hotspots could not be ignored.

Mkhize’s comments come amid calls from local leaders and political parties to have regions placed under tighter restrictions to quell the virus’ rapid spread. Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku recently confirmed that the provincial powers were considering an intermittent hardened lockdown, while Nelson Mandela Bay’s Acting Mayor Thsonono Buyeye has openly called for a return to Level 4.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have taken a more drastic stance, calling on President Ramaphosa to reinstate Level 5 lockdown for a period of three months.

Mkhize has argued that while the need to save lives remained a priority, a hardened lockdown would have a devastating socioeconomic impact on a country which had already suffered dire financial losses as a result of restrictions.

Cadres and kickbacks: A tough week for the ANC

The ANC has been subjected to fierce criticism over a host of issues this week. First, an alleged internal memo — the validity of which has been refuted by the ruling party — revealed how prospective board members, executive and chairperson at state-owned enterprises (SOE) needed to be aligned with the party’s ‘deployment committee’ overseen by Deputy President David Mabuza. According to party insiders, this pervasive element of cadre deployment was forced on ministers under the guise of ‘strategic appointments’.

While the ruling party has vehemently denied meddling in the appointments of SOE executives, another blow was dealt by former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) board chairperson Popo Molefe who detailed alleged kickbacks pocketed by ANC leaders. According to Molefe, a dodgy deal with Swifambo Rail Leasing in 2013 saw funds channelled back to the ANC.

Adding further insult to injury, on Tuesday evening, the ANC revealed that it would be unable to pay staff salaries in June, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary reason for the delay. ANC General Manager Febe Potgieter promised that salaries would be paid on Monday 6 July.

Cinemas, theatres set to reopen

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa is expected to issue directions on the reopening of cinemas and theatres, subject to a limit of 50 persons or less and strict adherence to all health protocols and social distancing measures.

The Minister’s directions will also allow for the reopening of museums, galleries, libraries and archives, subject to strict adherence to health protocols.

“The above mentioned places must apply to the Minister within 14 days after the publication of the directions and will be approved, subject to compliance with protocols, which will be published in the Minister’s directions in the next few days,” the ministry said on Tuesday.

The department will deploy officials to monitor compliance with the directions, and these officials will be given special identity documents. (Source: SAnews)

Plans underway to welcome back more grades to school

Plans are underway to welcome back more pupils to schools across the country as the Basic Education Department continues with its phased reopening of schools amid COVID-19.

In just five days, pupils in Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 6, 10 and 11 are set to return to school on 6 July 2020.

Earlier this month, Grade 7 and 12 pupils returned to the classroom as government implemented the phased reopening of the country and the economy.

Briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, the department’s Director-General Mathanzima Mweli said while the department is prepared to welcome back 52% of pupils next week, it will consider the trend of infections.

“Although we are saying 52% of learners, we are not fixed to bringing the 52%. We have heard that community infections are flaring up, we discussed this last night with unions, and we are saying our plan is extremely flexible.

“We are not going to push for 52% to come if we can see that there is danger. The community infections that are happening might spill over to schools. We are very cautious of that,” he said.

Since the reopening of schools on 8 June, the Education Department noted that 523 pupils, 1 169 staff members and 775 schools have been affected by COVID-19. (Source: SAnews)

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