South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Thursday 28 May

Never miss a beat when it comes to the latest news in South Africa, be sure to review all major headlines on Thursday 28 May.

After consecutive delays, resulting in widespread concern and speculation about government’s Level 3 lockdown strategy, Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) are expected address the nation this afternoon. Meanwhile, the legal bid to overturn the controversial cigarette ban enters a news phase of deliberation.

TODAY’S LATEST NEWS IN SOUTH AFRICA, Thursday 28 MAY

Dlamini-Zuma, NCCC briefing: Third time lucky?

While the first postponement following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address raised eyebrows, the NCCC’s decision to cancel its rescheduled briefing on Wednesday has raised some serious red flags. With four days to go until South Africa enters Level 3 lockdown, Dlamini-Zuma and the NCCC are under severe pressure to ratify regulations in line with government’s risk-adjusted strategy informed by the Disaster Management Act.

Reports indicate that division within the NCCC, coupled with proposals which have conflicted with Ramaphosa’s earlier assertions, have complicated the ‘collective decision-making process’. Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, blamed the delays on ‘further engagements’ emanating from Ramaphosa’s swift turnaround to allow religious gatherings during Level 3 lockdown.

Mthembu’s reasoning has, however, been met with criticism from analysts who argue that the NCCC would’ve been aware of the president’s intention to lift the ban on religious gatherings.

Mthembu added that Dlamini-Zuma would be joined by the Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, and the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel. The briefing is expected to begin at 14:00.

Mkhize denies Level 3 confusion

Amid the growing uncertainty emanating from government’s regulatory delays and doublespeak, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has endeavoured to allay fears of ineptitude and political division.

After alluding to the fact that the country’s hotspots could remain at Level 4 lockdown while the rest of the nation moved to Level 3, Mkhize was forced to clarify his comments which were in direct conflict with resolutions made by President Ramaphosa. Mkhize sought to clarify the misunderstanding, saying:

“An old slide was presented stating hotspots would remain at Level 4. That slide is now out-dated and was inadvertently included in a presentation that had been updated.”

Mkhize confirmed that, in line with the president’s proclamation, all provinces and districts in South Africa would move to Level 3 lockdown on Monday 1 June.

Eskom under ‘severe pressure’

Despite Eskom boss Andre de Ruyter recently issuing glowing reports of the utility’s operational sustainability — noting that winter load shedding predictions had been eased by over 90% — recent power alerts have cast doubt over the power supplier’s competence.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday evening, Eskom issued alerts which were strikingly similar in appearance to load shedding warnings, which stated:

“Our power system is under severe pressure. Please switch off all unnecessary lights, your geyser, pool pump and non-essential appliances.”

Earlier this month, Deputy President David Mabuza convened an urgent meeting with the Eskom Task Team which was aimed at assessing the probability of load shedding during Level 3 lockdown. Primary concerns around Eskom’s ability to perform when the economy reopens have been heightened due to the recent “severe pressure” warnings.

Legal challenge to overturn cigarette ban soldiers on

A legal bid launched by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) hopes to see both Minister Dlamini-Zuma and President Ramaphosa in court on 9 June.

The challenge, which seeks to have the tobacco ban declared unlawful and overturned, has entered a new phase after lawyers acting on behalf of the respondents — in this case the president and the cooperative governance minister — delivered 4 000 pages of ‘substantive evidence’ to Fita in line with an order issued by the Pretoria High Court.

The documents, said to detail the NCCC’s reasoning for the tobacco ban, will be scrutinised by Fita over the next week. Dlamini-Zuma has confirmed that the papers rely on ‘scientific evidence and logic’.

UIF apologises for network problems

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has apologised for the freak break in its network, which has affected plans to capture the May applications for the COVID-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).

The benefit scheme is expected to provide much needed relief to employees, who have been laid off work or unable to earn an income due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The system for the scheme has been undergoing through test runs since last week. It was due to due to go live on Tuesday but a damaged fibre link between the UIF’s offices and the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) affected those plans.

“We would like to apologise to all our stakeholders and particularly our clients for this unfortunate turn of events and the resultant delays. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the problem is resolved today so that we can start processing May applications immediately,” UIF Commissioner Teboho Maruping said on Wednesday.

He said the fault of connectivity in Pretoria is due to a damaged fibre cable that links the UIF to the SITA’s datacenter. (Source: SAnews)

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