Never miss a beat when it comes to the latest news in South Africa; review the country’s major headlines on Tuesday 2 June.
Contention surrounding the Western Cape’s defiance of national government’s school reopening timetable heads to court, while Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma fends off a parliamentary complaint. Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to join Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in Cape Town to assess the metro’s response to the surge of coronavirus infections.
TODAY’S LATEST NEWS IN SOUTH AFRICA, TUESDAY 2 June
Western Cape Education Department in hot water
The MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Debbie Schäfer, may soon find herself in court as a result of the province’s move to reopen schools in direct defiance of Minister Angie Motshekga’s new directives. Motshekga, who snubbed a long-awaited media briefing on Sunday night, revealed that Grade 7 and 12 pupils, who were initially expected to return to class on Monday, would be required to stay home until 8 June.
Schäfer and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) rebelled against Motshekga’s inconsistencies and, in accordance with the gazetted timetable, reopened schools on Monday 1 June. The move divided public opinion, with many criticising the Western Cape — which accounts for the highest rate of infection in South Africa — for acting independently against national government.
While Schäfer and Provincial Premier Alan Winde have defended the decision, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which challenged Motshekga to revise the premature return of pupils, has confirmed that it had initiated legal action against the Western Cape Education Department.
The SAHRC has opposed the reopening of classrooms amid concerns of an ever-growing coronavirus caseload and the unpreparedness of schools on a national level.
DA calls on Parliament to discipline Dlamini-Zuma
The Democratic Alliance (DA), which has been fiercely outspoken against government’s prolonged lockdown, has demanded that Minister Dlamini-Zuma be held to account before Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests. The official opposition party’s Chief Whip, Natasha Mazzone, has argued that Dlamini-Zuma’s handling of the controversial tobacco ban violated parliamentary ethics.
The DA claims that Dlamini-Zuma lied to the public when she announced that 2 000 submissions had been lodged in support of the tobacco ban. This hotly-debated public submission’s process, which was provided as a primary reason for the ban’s continuation, forms part of an ongoing legal battle lodged by the Fair Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita).
Fita, which has spearheaded the challenge to have the prohibition of tobacco products overturned, alleges that court documents provided by government show that only 1535 submissions were received and, of those, only 29.6% were in favour of the tobacco ban.
In addition to calling on President Ramaphosa to axe Dlamini-Zuma, the DA wants the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to stand the test of parliamentary integrity.
Social Relief of Distress grant rollout picks up pace
Over 100 000 unemployed South Africans in May received R350 from the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress, SASSA has confirmed.
The 116 867, said the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) on Monday in a statement, were part of 13 million applications received. However, only 6.3 million of these were valid, complete applications.
SASSA spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said, to date, over 3.5 million applicants had been checked to confirm if they are either active SASSA grant recipients, were on the UIF database or receive a NSFAS stipend.
“We have received approximately 13 million enquiries/applications about the temporary special COVID-19 SRD grant as at Monday, 25 May 2020.
“About 6.3 million of these were valid, complete applications. The rest were either duplicate applications, incomplete, had inconsistent data, or were just pure enquiries,” said Busisiwe Memela, SASSA Chief Executive.
The agency said a further 1.2 million clients were being finalised through verification by SARS to confirm if they have an income.
“A total of 666 381 clients have been approved and SASSA is awaiting banking details information. Over 1 597 127 have been disapproved, since the applicants have some or other means of income,” read the statement. (Source: SAnews)
Mkhize continues oversight visit in Cape Town
Health Minister Mkhize, who arrived in Cape Town on Monday, will continue his oversight visit in and around the nation’s coronavirus epicentre. Mkhize, who, on several occasions has noted his concern with the country’s warmest hotspot, plans to assess the metro’s readiness ahead of the coronavirus’ inevitable peak.
On Monday, Mkhize engaged with Premier Winde and visited a number of medical sites, including the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) which has recently been converted into a field hospital equipped with 862.
After cancelling his visit to the area in May — citing a coronavirus scare involving Winde — President Ramaphosa is expected to join Mkhize in the Western Cape this week. Minister Motshekga is also scheduled to arrive in Cape Town to conduct oversight visits at schools.
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