CORONAVIRUS DAILY DIGEST #139

Call for probe after ‘Covid emergency’ permit revoked, Eastern Cape health boss resigns, and UIF heads suspended

By Christi Nortier 2 September 2020

Compilation image by Sahra Heuwel.

On Wednesday, a ‘Covid emergency’ permit given to a Turkish power company was officially revoked, but it seems unlikely that anyone responsible will be called to account. Meanwhile, the head of the Eastern Cape Health Department has resigned. In addition, the top bosses of the Unemployment Insurance Fund have been suspended after a probe found irregularities.

Scroll through the gallery below to view the latest Covid-19 numbers available on 2 September at the district level. All maps are sourced from provincial health departments. Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape did not provide an update by the time of publishing:

A “Covid emergency” permit given to a Turkish company to provide SA with electricity from “power ships” has been officially revoked, but it seems unlikely that the role players from government, the company or the environmental consultancy will be called to account. The directive had been granted under the auspices that the ships were needed to provide emergency back-up power to hospitals and healthcare facilities. As Tony Carnie writes, non-governmental groups have called for a disciplinary inquiry.

Questions raised about accountability in wake of rescinded permit to Turkish power company

The superintendent-general of the Eastern Cape Department of Health, Dr Thobile Mbengashe, has resigned from his position to become a special adviser to Premier Oscar Mabuyane. While Mabuyane was quick to praise Mbengashe’s tenure and his management of the Covid-19 crisis, others have argued he has left the department in a worse state. As Estelle Ellis writes, there is no word yet on who will replace him.

Head of Eastern Cape health department resigns, moves to advise the premier

Meanwhile, a report by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu indicates that some of the R500-billion Covid-19 relief package may have been at risk of fraud and abuse of funds. The payments to 30,000 recipients of the R350 unemployment grant need further investigation. Simultaneously, Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said four top bosses of the Unemployment Insurance Fund have been suspended as it “allows the Special Investigating Unit to complete its forensic investigation completely unfettered”.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the human resources crisis of the healthcare sector into sharp relief. A leaked government strategy document says that billions of rand will be needed to avert a healthcare worker crisis in the public sector by 2025. It gives strategies and solutions on how a disaster can be avoided; however, the pandemic has apparently delayed the tabling of the document before the National Health Council even though the national Department of Health received it in March. As Kathryn Cleary and Marcus Low write, there is no indication of when it might be approved and published.

Leaked government strategy document shows billions needed to avert healthcare worker crisis

The pandemic and lockdown have pushed non-governmental organisations, such as shelters, to the brink of closure just when they are needed more desperately than ever. Thankfully, other civil society organisations and the public have stepped in to offer them a helping hand. 

Ons Plek: Keeping a shelter’s doors open in tough times

Ons Plek, Cape Town’s oldest shelter and only care organisation for girl street children, was dealt a major financial blow when lockdown forced the cancellation of fundraising events and donors diverted their funds to Covid-19 specific causes. As Sandisiwe Shoba writes, the shelter was given a lifeline after Gift of the Givers delivered R20,000 worth of groceries and hygiene supplies to its door on Tuesday. DM/MC

Gallery

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GAUTENG PPE SCANDAL

‘Deaf and blind’ to the risks of corruption: High court knocks down Bandile Masuku’s last stand – his lawyers’ interpretation notwithstanding

By Mark Heywood