news shutterstockIn our roundup of weekend news, see
summaries of our selection of South African
labour-related stories that appeared since
Friday, 13 August 2021.


COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND VACCINE ROLLOUT

Covid-19 vaccination programme loses momentum

City Press reports that SA’s Covid-19 vaccine programme is losing momentum. Dr Nicholas Crisp, who runs government’s vaccine programme, said they have not been able to reach the target of 250,000 jabs a day because too few people were showing up at vaccination stations. “We do not have a shortage of vaccines, but rather a shortage of arms,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday. Just over 54% of people older than 60 – those most at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from a Covid-19 infection – have been vaccinated.   The target of 250,000 vaccinations per day was first reached on 21 July, but not since then, with less than 200,000 vaccinations per day since 29 July. In the past week, not more than 180,000 vaccines were administered per day, with Friday recording only 140,000 vaccinations. Crisp said there were several reasons for the decline in vaccinations, including the distribution network that was taking longer to get doses into the system after there was a “low number of doses” in the pipeline two weeks ago. According to Crisp, this led to a “partial loss of the incentive to vaccinate, which led to partial apathy among the public”. But while a vaccine shortage may be the reason for the sluggish vaccination rate in rural provinces such as the Northern Cape (41%), North West (44%) and Mpumalanga (41%) of those who are older than 60, the same explanation does not apply to an urban province such as Gauteng (50%), which is not affected by the shortages. In addition, other rural provinces such as Limpopo (69%) and the Eastern Cape (59%) are doing much better with their vaccinations of people older than 60. Asked if vaccine hesitancy played a role in the sluggish vaccination rate, Crisp replied: “Without a doubt.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Dawie Boonzaaier and Liezel De Lange at City Press. Read too, 'It's a national emergency': Alarm over SA's Covid-19 jabs drop, on page 1 of Sunday Times of 15 August 2021

Pro-jab message drowned out by disinformation

Saturday Citizen writes that with SA showing signs of some people being reluctant to vaccinate against Covid, government’s communications strategy appears not to be strong enough to counter the growing wave of massive disinformation on social media. Against the background of the health department having squandered R150 million in the controversially awarded Digital Vibes Covid communications contract, which led to the resignation of Dr Zweli Mkhize as health minister, Covid communication gaps have become evident. Khanyi Madlala of Zoe PR Communications, said: “There should have been an educational programme to educate society about the vaccine – what it is, responding to questions about efficacy and whether it is safe to take the vaccine.” Chris Vick of nonprofit organisation Covid Comms, which aims to build understanding of Covid, said: “There is a definite problem of vaccine hesitancy, which seems to be misinformed by a misunderstanding or misinformation.   What is easier to deal with is hesitancy and what is difficult to deal with is vaccination resistance.   Fortunately, the level of vaccination resistance is much smaller than the level of vaccination hesitancy.”   On Friday, Health Minister Joe Phaahla revealed that 60% of South African women have been vaccinated compared to 40% of men. Noting that every province had lost momentum with vaccinations, health deputy director-general Nicholas Crisp said: ““There will be a fourth wave, we have no doubt. We don’t know when, we don’t know how severe and we don’t know which variant. But we need to protect ourselves by vaccinating. Men are not being vaccinated at the same rate as women, across all age groups. This means men are going to end up very sick and in hospital.”

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Brian Sokutu on page 4 of Saturday Citizen of 14 August 2021

Covid-19 third wave sees more under-59s hospitalised

Sunday Times reports that patients younger than 59 have been admitted to hospital in greater numbers during the Delta-driven third wave, according to clinicians on the frontline of the war against Covid-19.   An analysis of admissions and deaths in the Western Cape has found that the 50-59 age group has been at increased risk from Covid-19 during the third wave compared to the second wave, with a higher proportion of hospitalisations and deaths. Moreover, Professor Mary-Ann Davies, director of the UCT Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research, said on Friday that a "slightly greater number of Covid-19 cases among children [under 20 years old]" had been reported in this wave, with the proportion of children rising from about 6% of cases to 8%-9%.” Doctors and nurses in Cape Town confirm that they have been treating relatively younger patients in the latest wave compared to the second wave. Dr Helen van der Plas, a Cape Town infectious diseases specialist, has seen young patients with severe symptoms. "However, that is likely a function of vaccination of older persons, and the loss of life or past infections in the older individuals during the previous wave. Of course there are other factors too," she noted.   The behaviour of younger people is overall more social, and thus riskier, than that of older groups.   Research in other countries has flagged the risk that the Delta variant could cause severe disease and hospitalisation. At this stage there are more questions than answers about the Covid risk to people below 50. But at least two points are clear, say infectious diseases specialists, namely that Covid can hit adults of any age, and vaccinations reduce the risk of death by more than 90%.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Claire Keeton at Sunday Times

Health Minister wants SA to stay at current lockdown level, despite downward trend in infections

Reuters reports that Health Minister Joe Phaahla indicated on Friday that he would not recommend a relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown measures despite a downward trend in infections. As a wave of infections driven by the more infectious Delta variant strains over-burdened hospitals and health workers, he pointed out that the country of 60 million had fully vaccinated only around 4 million people.   “Our situation therefore remains precarious … We will be recommending remaining at Level 3,” Phaahla told a media briefing before putting his proposals to the cabinet. In a bid to stimulate the economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa last month eased restrictions to an adjusted “Level 3” in a five-level system, as infections declined. Phaahla said the national positivity rate, which gives an indication of how widespread infections were, had declined from a high of 35% in mid-July to an average over the last seven days of 19-20%. However, he noted that the World Health Organisation recommended the rate should be down to 5% before relaxations were considered.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Wendell Roelf at Moneyweb

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • Gauteng taxi ranks to be used as vaccination sites, at SowetanLive
  • Covid-19: ‘KZN nou in derde golf,’ sê premier, by Maroela Media
  • Covid trek Steve Hofmeyr ook plat, by Maroela Media


OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY

Armed men rob principal, teachers on Friday at West Rand school

News24 reports that police advised on Saturday that a principal and his teachers were robbed at a school on the West Rand in Gauteng.   Two armed men walked into the AB Phokompe High School in Randfontein in broad daylight on Friday afternoon and held up the principal and a teacher in his office. Sergeant Carmen Hendricks said the men demanded their cellphones, which they handed over, before tying them up with cable ties and telling them not to move. "The unknown suspects proceeded to the other offices, where they found the other teachers whom they also tied up. They took the teachers cellphones, jewellery, money and the school laptops," she indicated. The men fled in a grey VW Polo, which was found to have had a fake number plate.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard compiled by Jenna Etheridge at News24

Inmate charged in connection with murder of Leeuwkop prison official

The Citizen reports that the department of justice and correctional services confirmed on Friday in a statement that an inmate had been charged for the murder of an official at the Leeuwkop correctional centre in Tshwane. Eunice Moloko died on Tuesday while on duty at Leeuwkop’s Covid-19 isolation site.   Her body was discovered on the floor with her jacket covered with blood. Details surrounding the murder are still sketchy and are part of the police investigation. The department announced the arrest on Friday following a visit to the facility by the Deputy Minister Nkosi Holomisa. He described Moloko’s brutal murder as a sad incident, especially in the month when the country was celebrating women. He also said that the tragic incident sent shockwaves through the department. While investigations continue, Holomisa said that they were also looking at the facility’s management to understand if there had been any case of negligence from their side. “Should investigations reveal that there was negligence on the part of management in the centre, the department will not hesitate to take tough action against anyone implicated,” Holomisa said. Moloko worked at correctional services for 23 years.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Siyanda Ndlovu at The Citizen


RELIEF FUNDS

Unrest relief fund 'is not a salary holiday, it is meant for bad days', says UIF

News24 reports that the newly established relief fund to assist companies looted during the recent unrest has been infiltrated by fraudsters. The Department of Employment and Labour's R5.3 billion Covid-19 relief fund is meant to assist businesses looted and destroyed during last month's unrest in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The Unemployment Insurance Fund's (UIF’s) Mzie Yawa advised last week that of the 18,000 applications received by Wednesday, some 8,000 shared the same bank account. "Our systems have picked up fraudulent activities and have not paid them. They have wasted our energy, which could have been diverted elsewhere. Some applicants' bank accounts are non-existent," Yawa indicated.   Yawa said they had also established the Workers Affected by Unrest relief fund, which was restricted to unrest in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal only. The burning of trucks is not included. Yawa explained further: "We don't want some employers who can pay their workers and claim from UIF.   We want to assist those who can't earn a living. This is not a salary holiday. The fund is meant for bad days. The process is for affected businesses and workers. Employers must apply for their workers … Employers must first open a case with the police before claiming from the fund. We also want a report from insurance companies on behalf of companies that have lodged claims, and details of the employer and employees." Ultimately, the UIF will pay directly into workers' bank accounts.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Ntwaagae Seleka at News24


MARIKANA MASSACRE

SERI calls for 16 August to be a national holiday as sign of respect to 34 Marikana miners

The Star reports that as SA marks the ninth anniversary of the Marikana killings on Monday, there have been calls for 16 August to be made a national holiday as a sign of respect to the miners who died in the country’s first post-apartheid massacre. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute’s (SERI’s) executive director, Nomzamo Zondo, said this would be a sign of remorse from the state and would offer some comfort to the families of the 34 miners who died at the hands of the police in 2012. The institute has been representing some of the miners’ families in court.   “Marikana cannot stop being a sore wound until the current government recognises that it was a post-apartheid massacre and responds in a way that acknowledges their culpability in the deaths of these miners. They killed people during a labour dispute. The least they could do is recognise the day,” Zondo stated. She noted that R100 million had been paid to the families by the state, but some of those who were injured had still not been paid. According to Zondo, more money had been spent on the Farlam Commission and the defence of the police. Zondo also said the Marikana widows were not happy that the mining company previously known as Lonmin had placed a monument at one of its premises, but not at the koppie where the miners died. The widows were also unhappy that the names of their family members were misspelt and in some cases the wrong names appeared.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Itumeleng Mafisa at The Star

Other internet posting(s) in this news category

  • No justice for those left behind after the Marikana massacre, at Mail & Guardian
  • Nine years after Marikana massacre, families of the dead have no closure as no one has been prosecuted, at City Press


MINING LABOUR

NUM slams CAPM’s plans to retrench up to 200 Orkney miners

Mining Weekly reports that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says it is “disturbed and aggrieved” by China Africa Precious Metal’s (CAPM’s) issuance of a Section 189 notice for the retrenchment of 200 of the 301 employees at its Orkney gold mine, in the North West.   The NUM’s Matlosana regional secretary, Masibulele Naki, said the union disagreed with CAPM cutting jobs by 80% of their current workforce and was prepared to fight “tooth and nail” against the notice. The NUM also suggested that miners might have been exploited at the Orkney mine, noting that in 2018 the NUM’s members had gone on strike to protest against health and safety conditions at the mine as a result of risk assessments not being done. “Workers were forced to work in dangerous workplaces underground,” the union claimed.   The NUM also maintained that CAPM’s “problem is temporary”. In an effort to remedy the need to retrench mineworkers, the NUM suggested that CAPM put all workers on rotational layoff during the period while CAPM fixed a winder headgear. This, NUM pointed out, would enable workers to earn at least 50% of their salaries.   In addition, the NUM said that CAPM must apply for an employee relief scheme, similar to what has already been approved by the government for all companies struggling financially through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Mining Weekly


ALLEGED WORKPLACE CORRUPTION

Mpumalanga municipal employee and two others arrested over R300,000 RDP housing scam

News24 reports that an employee at the eMalahleni municipality in Mpumalanga was granted R10,000 bail last week, after being charged with selling unallocated RDP houses to unsuspecting victims desperate for a home. Vusumuzi Phakane, employed as a community coordinator by the municipality, allegedly colluded with two other locals, namely Justice Sambo and Caroline Koloane, in having defrauded victims of at least R300,000 since last year.   According to the Hawks, Phakane and Sambo approached Koloane and recruited her to look for prospective customers. Koloane took to social media where she advertised government houses for sale.   Unsuspecting victims would be directed by the syndicate to the municipality offices to complete the agreement of sale forms. When the victim occupied the newly purchased house, other victims would come and produce documents as proof of purchase of the same house. A case was opened and investigators found out that lawful beneficiaries of the houses were still alive, and waiting to be allocated their homes. Victims lost at least R300,000 in the scam. The three shared the money among themselves. They were arrested on Wednesday on charges of corruption, theft, forgery and money laundering. Phakane and Koloane were granted R10,000 bail each, while Sambo was held in custody as he has previous convictions.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Getrude Makhafola at News24. Lees ook, Munisipale amptenaar, twee ander vas wat glo HOP-huise verkoop, by Maroela Media


COMMUTING / TRANSPORT

Automobile Association submits that Gautrain is a white elephant, its extension unacceptable

Engineering News reports that according to the Automobile Association (AA), proposed route extensions to the Gautrain must be rejected by the Gauteng provincial government, as this will perpetuate a system which “caters for the minority of citizens who don’t need it, instead of the mass market which does”. The AA has made a detailed submission relating to the proposed extensions of the Gauteng Rapid Rail Integrated Network or, as it is better known, the Gautrain.   In its submission, the AA highlighted several key factors it believed negated the extension of Gautrain, among them current low demand, and the fact that the project’s economic viability could not be established within reasonable risk parameters. “Simply put, the Gautrain doesn’t carry enough passengers currently – certainly not as many as it had projected when it started,” the association noted. “Spending valuable financial resources now to continue with a system that doesn’t have demand, at the expense of better, more efficient and more affordable transport does not make any sense. We are in favour of alternatives that provide solutions to vehicle usage, and which reduce pollution and congestion, but the Gautrain is not that solution,” the AA argued. It also noted that low use of the Gautrain was putting additional pressure on the Gauteng province’s transport budget, which effectively meant that other transport options were not properly funded, again disadvantaging the mass market.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard at Engineering News


OTHER REPORTS

Employee files R2m lawsuit against state over slur that she slept her way up the promotions ladder

SowetanLive reports that an employee of an agency of the Department of Human Settlements has filed a R2m defamation suit against her employer and a senior manager for allegedly spreading rumours that she had slept her way to promotions. The employee, who filed civil litigation in the Johannesburg High Court last month, also wants her employer – the Housing Development Agency – to pay her a further R500,000 for trauma and emotional suffering. She furthermore wants another R60,000 for current and future medical treatment involving psychotherapy. The woman, 41, who cannot be named due to the serious nature of allegations that include rape, was seconded to a new position in 2018 by her superiors. According to court papers, a senior manager of the agency told a board meeting that the complainant had sexual intercourse with senior executives in return for a promotion. The manager also apparently told the board of directors that the complainant had been intoxicated after a party and was taken advantage of by her superiors.   The agency said in its court papers that while the matter had been raised during a board meeting, the woman's name was not used as she was referred to as an "unnamed employee". It argued that the employee is not entitled to the relief she sought as she did not suffer the harm she alleged in her claim. In another R3m claim filed with the Labour Court for harassment and unfair discrimination, the employee said that without even contacting her, the agency launched an investigation over allegations of her being raped. In its defence, the agency said that it was in the public interest and it had a duty to pursue the allegations made.

Read the full original of the report in the above regard by Isaac Mahlangu at SowetanLive


OTHER HEADLINES OF INTEREST

  • New finance minister Enoch Godongwana pledges policy continuity, at Engineering News
  • Opinion: SA’s debate over basic income versus jobs is a false dilemma, at Moneyweb
  • Too broke for wages, but Mango to fly again, at The Citizen
  • New strike patterns have been emerging in recent years, says postdoctoral fellow, at Engineering News
  • Hard-to-fill vacancies prevalent in the automotive component supply base, at Engineering News
  • ‘Blade dumped me so he can continue illicit acts’, claims suspended director-general, at City Press (paywall access only)

 


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