Photo: GCIS

South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Thursday 16 July

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga meets with stakeholders to debate potential school closures.


Photo: GCIS

For all the latest news in South Africa, be sure to check out what’s making headlines on Thursday 16 July.

As calls for schools to close grow louder, the department of basic education begins an urgent consultation process with unions and other stakeholders. Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape, which has been rocked by consecutive scandals during the coronavirus pandemic, risks being placed under administration.


Motshekga locked in meetings to rescue school year

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga begins her urgent consultation process with stakeholders following renewed calls for the immediate closure of schools amid a burgeoning coronavirus caseload. Both the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) and the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) have called for the school year to be scrapped, citing serious health concerns and inadequate safety protocols.

Motshekga, who snubbed a meeting with unions on Wednesday, has vehemently opposed any further postponement to the 2020 school calendar.

Facing further pressure from political heavyweights, including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Motshekga resolved to meet with stakeholders and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM). Motshekga confirmed that the decision to close schools rested solely with Cabinet and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).

The department of basic education is expected to hear arguments for and against the closing of classrooms.

Eastern Cape scandals pile up as health system crumbles

The Eastern Cape health department, which has been labelled as a serious concern by both Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and President Cyril Ramaphosa, continues to attract dire reviews. An investigate exposé, produced by the BBC, has depicted a healthcare system in dire decline; overcrowded hospitals, fatigued staff, a lack of beds and grim conditions all featured in the international documentary.

The grim state of affairs has been compounded by allegations of corruption within the province. A controversial ‘Scooter Project’, intended to provide healthcare services to rural communities, has been marred by inconsistencies and is currently under investigation for dodgy tender dealings.

Making matters worse, Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Xolile Nqatha recently called on government to halt investigations into corrupt dealings while public officials were confined to quarantine.

These combined scandals have renewed calls for the Eastern Cape health department to be placed under administration. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has demanded that Minister Mkhize take urgent action to prevent any further loss of life.

City of Cape Town ordered to rebuild dismantled structures

The City of Cape Town’s controversial eviction and anti-land invasion programme has been dealt a serious judicial blow. On Wednesday, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the eviction of Hangberg residents in June — whereby people were displaced during a fierce storm — was “deplorable and grotesque”.

In a damning judgement, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe ordered that the City of Cape Town rebuild structures which were dismantled. Salie-Hlophe gave the City 48-hours to comply.

City of Cape Town Executive Mayor Dan Plato said he was disappointed in the ruling but noted, begrudgingly, that local government would comply with the court order.

The ruling comes just weeks after video footage — depicting the brutal eviction of Khayelitsha resident — sent shockwaves through the country, raising further red flags about the City of Cape Town’s eviction programme particularly during the national lockdown.

Eskom confirms Stage 1 and 2 load shedding

South Africa’s embattled power utility, Eskom, will continue to implement rotational load shedding schedules as demand continues to exceed supply. Eskom noted that a surge in demand, coupled with the loss of generation units, has resulted in load shedding.

The latest bout of load shedding coincides with bitterly cold weather, with Eskom pleading with customers to reduce their reliance on heating appliances. Repairs to key power units have also been delayed.


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