South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Tuesday 9 June

Never miss a beat when it comes to the latest news in South Africa; be sure to review all major headlines on Tuesday 9 June.

As the reopening of schools gets off to a shaky start — with some pupils sent home due to unpreparedness — rumours surrounding the closure of bottle stores, as a result of increased pressure on trauma wards, have been dispelled by the Presidency.


False start for some schools

While most schools have been able to reopen and welcome the return of Grade 7 and 12 pupils, some classrooms failed to pass stringent health and safety protocols implemented by the Department of Basic Education.

Temperature screenings upon entry, facemasks, social distancing and consistent hand sanitising strategies have become the norm across all South African schools. Despite fervent calls for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to delay the return of pupils, approximately 95% of classrooms were ready to reopen on Monday.

For some, the long-awaited restart was, however, short-lived as positive COVID-19 cases and flailing infrastructure put a swift halt to the revised 2020 school calendar. In the Western Cape, at least 55 schools were impacted by positive coronavirus infections, resulting in temporary closures and swift sanitising efforts.

In Gauteng, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi confirmed that 30 schools were forced to delay the welcoming of pupils due to COVID-19 cases.

Some schools in Mpumalanga and Gauteng were also barred from reopening after local departments uncovered crumbling infrastructure and a lack of running water.

Cigarette ban: Court date draws near

The courtroom showdown between the Fair-Trade Tobacco Association (Fita) and Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma draws nearer. South African smokers and tax watchdogs alike have pinned their hopes on Fita’s legal bid to overturn the controversial tobacco ban which inconvenienced 11 million users and robbed billions of rands from the national fiscus as a result of lost excise duties.

The ban, which has been in place since the beginning of lockdown, is widely regarded as the most contentious regulation upheld by Dlamini-Zuma and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) within the Disaster Management Act.

According to Fita, High Court judges will be spending today peering over documents submitted by both parties before a full hearing on Wednesday.

Despite growing criticism and cries of dishonesty, Dlamini-Zuma has remained resolute in her defence of the tobacco ban, claiming that cigarette smokers would add further strain to the healthcare system during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bottle stores to stay open… for now

Despite rumours of bottle stores closing just days after the prohibition of alcohol was lifted — largely brought about by an increase in liquor-related casualties and an emboldened plea by Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane — South African drinkers need not fear.

Responding to questions regarding the rumours on Monday, both Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Spokesperson Mlungisi Mtshali and Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said that government had not been lobbied to reintroduce the ban.

Government has, however, noted, with concern, the increase in violence, drunk driving and overall trauma-related hospital admissions as a result of alcohol being available for purchase for the first time in over two months. Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku said that this added further strain to medical resources which complicated the fight against COVID-19.

Eastern Cape under Mkhize’s microscope

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is heading to the Eastern Cape this week following the Ministerial and Presidential visit to the Western Cape last week.

According to the department, the Eastern Cape has similar numbers to Gauteng but it has recorded the second-highest mortality numbers.

The department believes this is due to its proximity and interconnectedness with the Western Cape, which makes the province vulnerable.

“In addition, there is an increase in infection rate amongst healthcare workers both in the public and private sectors,” the department said.

The province had recorded 258 COVID-19 positive health professionals and 14 deaths.

“The Minister of Health will be returning to the Eastern Cape later this week whilst the Deputy Minister will go to the Western Cape to continue Ministerial oversight there,” the department said.

The department said the province is working around the clock to deal with hotspot areas and facilitating a strong community-based response while addressing the Personal Protective Equipment shortages.

In addition, the province is also now supported by experts from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). (Source: SAnews)


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