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DA heads to court over schools closing, tourism industr...

Maverick Citizen

CORONAVIRUS DAILY DIGEST #111

DA heads to court over schools closing, tourism industry given some relief, and Olympic gymnast determined to still perform for SA

Compilation image by Sahra Heuwel.

On Thursday, the DA headed to court to file papers challenging the government’s decision to close schools. The hospitality industry was offered some relief as the curfew and leisure travel rules were relaxed. Meanwhile, a South African Olympic gymnast plans to still put on a show for the country despite the Games being postponed.

Scroll through the gallery below to view the latest Covid-19 numbers available on 30 July at the district level. All maps are sourced from provincial health departments; however, Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo did not provide an update by the time of publishing:

The DA is seeking a court declaration to nullify the decision to close schools for four weeks. In court papers, it argues that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement is not legally binding because it has not yet been published in the Government Gazette. It has been five days since Ramaphosa made the announcement on Cabinet’s decision. As Ayanda Mthethwa writes, the party is also seeking an order declaring that speeches and statements announcing government policy do not have the force of law.

The Western Cape Health Department’s Special Adjustment Budget was passed in the provincial legislature on Thursday. However, it was not without debate over who is to blame for problems in the province’s Covid-19 response. Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo accused the national government of delaying funding and support to assist the province. However, the ANC dismissed this and accused Mbombo of blaming others and not her own province for the issues that have arisen. As Suné Payne writes, the department has been allocated an additional R1.8-billion to respond to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, restaurants, accommodation establishments and tour operators have been offered some relief after Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane announced the relaxation of some regulations. The curfew now runs from 10pm to 4am to give restaurants more time to serve diners. Accommodation establishments can now accommodate people on intra-provincial travel for leisure, but no more than two people can stay in a room together unless it is a nuclear family. However, short-term home rental and sharing remain prohibited. Tour operators can now offer tours in open safari vehicles. Nevertheless, these changes still need to be gazetted.

The department has depleted its R200-million Tourism Relief Fund before paying out all qualifying applicants. With regards to the tourism recovery plan, the draft plan has been published for public comment before being sent to Cabinet. The draft will be released on 1 August.

Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku has been placed on leave for four weeks, pending an investigation into tender corruption in the health department. Masuku’s wife, City of Johannesburg services MMC Loyiso Masuku, has also been asked to “step aside”. Gauteng Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo has stepped into Masuku’s role for the time being. The ANC’s integrity committee is now investigating the corruption claims against Bandile Masuku, Loyiso Masuku and presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko. In addition, the South African Human Rights Commission has said it will launch its own investigation into the allegations of corruption within the department.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 emergency Budget has been approved in the National Assembly. Closing the debate on the Budget, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said it was “incorrect” to say that every Covid-19 contract is corrupt. He said the National Treasury is considering buying some things centrally to clean up the process. Marianne Merten breaks down the Budget and the debate.

Government considers central procurement for Covid-19 goods to stem corruption; emergency Budget approved

The Western Cape, too, is looking to increase transparency around its procurement process by publishing a new database, a Procurement Disclosure Report, of all processes to buy personal protective equipment. Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC David Maynier said this was to prevent “the vultures” from “settling” in the province. It will be updated monthly and quarterly. As Suné Payne reports, a debate ensued about whether or not the national government had done enough to support the province’s response to Covid-19. The database can be found here.

Province to disclose PPE procurement details to avoid corruption

Illegal cigarette smuggling networks have been operating in South Africa for decades and were perfectly placed to take the ban on cigarettes in their stride – as a result, illegal traders and reputable companies are making more profit than ever before, according to independent illicit trade expert and former SA Revenue Service executive Telita Snyckers. She was in conversation with Scorpio journalist Pauli van Wyk to discuss dirty tobacco. Read and watch here how and why the ban backfired.

Dirty Tobacco: How the cigarette ban backfired

In amongst news of the latest allegations of Covid-19 corruption in government departments, there are some silver linings to be noted elsewhere.

In 2019, Caitlin Rooskrantz became the first South African artistic gymnast to qualify for the Olympic Games in 15 years. “The Olympics was something I had been preparing for all my life; 2020 was going to be the year. I had made everything kind of work this year in order to fully focus on the Olympic Games,” she says. However, she sees the postponement as a chance to improve even further before 2021. As Yanga Sibembe writes: “A dream delayed is not one denied”. She will still be performing the routine she perfected for the Games – on Sunday 2 August, the date she would have debuted in Tokyo. Her performance will be live-streamed at 10am here.

A dream delayed is not one denied – Caitlin Rooskrantz still dreaming of Olympics

Veteran HIV/AIDS activist Sharon Ebrahim writes that she has discovered hope, commitment and ghosts of activists passed away by signing up for the Covid-19 vaccine trial at the Wits RHI Shandukani Research Centre. Read her reflection here.

Taking part in the Covid-19 vaccine trial is giving me life and hope

In Johannesburg, two best friends realised they needed to start a feeding initiative when they received feedback on their mask project which said: “We appreciate the masks but we can’t eat masks, we are busy starving here”. 

The two businessmen started One People Fund with money donated from family and friends. They bought food wholesale and carefully vetted NGOs on the ground to pinpoint where food needed to go. It focused on the Gauteng peri-urban townships areas but has already expanded to Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and the southern Cape. Business partners have come on board, as have Proteas cricketers Themba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada.

Friends, businessmen and cricket stars join forces to fight hunger

Zukiswa Pikoli spoke to them about how they managed to purchase and deliver more than four million meals. DM/MC

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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