CORONAVIRUS DAILY DIGEST #29

Infections rise steeply in the Eastern Cape while Gauteng evicts shack dwellers from their homes

By Christi Nortier 23 April 2020

A man stands by his shack with his son after he was spared eviction during raids on illegal shack owners in Johannesburg on day 26 of the national lockdown on 21 April 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

Things changed overnight in South Africa on 15 March, and it won’t be the last time it does. Daily Maverick’s Daily Digest will provide the essential bits of information about Covid-19 in South Africa each day. Please do read on to understand these issues more deeply.

On Tuesday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the pain and social distress this pandemic and lockdown has caused those living in South Africa. Then he announced the release of R500-billion to try to right it.

The increase in the child grant alone will provide some relief for 13 million people. In addition, all other grant recipients will receive an extra R250 a month for the next six months.

Those who are unemployed and are not receiving a grant will be eligible for the Covid-19 social relief of distress grant of R350 per month for the next six months. As Estelle Ellis writes, a number of these new interventions reflect the proposals made by several leading civil society organisations. 

Just how this will be funded will be made clearer in the coming days. Ramaphosa mentioned that funds will be drawn from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, global partners and international financial institutions. 

As Ed Stoddard writes, what also remains vague at this point is the “economic recovery strategy”. For now, there will be a R200-billion loan guarantee scheme with major banks, treasury and the South African Reserve Bank. R40-billion is set aside to provide income for workers whose employers can’t pay them. Watch this space on Thursday. 

To read through the presidential address in your own time, click through here. Meanwhile, the provinces are dealing with their local circumstances in different ways.

In the Eastern Cape, the number of Covid-19 infections is rising exponentially. As a result, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize has sent a team of 10 epidemiologists to the province to assess the situation.

Areas of particular focus are funerals, stocks of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, stigma about the virus and the influx of people into the province just before the lockdown came into effect. As Estelle Ellis writes, another point of concern is that rural residents travel to a town to buy food, but get “stuck” there for the day because taxis only run at certain hours.

In the Western Cape, Premier Alan Winde announced that the province could see 80,000 Covid-19 cases at its peak, but that 90% wouldn’t need hospitalisation. 

He said preparation and planning are key. Currently, the province has 1,000 beds for acute cases and 750 beds for critical cases. It plans to set up 17 field hospital sites for testing and triage facilities. As Suné Payne reports, Winde said: “It’s going to be tough”.

The war on shack dwellers continues, but this time in Gauteng. Red Ant Security pushed 1,000 people out of their homes and on to the street by demolishing 575 shacks over two days in Lawley, south of Johannesburg. Evictions and demolitions are unlawful during the lockdown. Diana Neille and Richard Poplak were on the scene.

Members of the Red Ants gather amid running battles during the eviction in Johannesburg of people from shacks on day 26 of the national lockdown. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)
Members of the Red Ants harass a woman and her family during evictions of illegal shack owners. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)
Members of the Red Ants burn wood from demolished illegal shacks during the eviction in Johannesburg. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)

Relatives of Alexandra resident Collins Khosa, who say he died after soldiers assaulted him during the lockdown, have turned to the Constitutional Court. They have asked the court to issue a declaratory order confirming the rights of citizens, to disarm security force members who were present at the attack and to establish a complaints mechanism.

They also ask that a retired judge be appointed to investigate all allegations of brutality at the hands of the security forces. Tania Broughton spoke to the family about the death of Khosa and their legal action. DM

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