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110 Free State teachers contract COVID-19



Staff Reporter

About 110 teachers in the Free State have contracted the coronavirus since the phased reopening of schools started early June, Education MEC Tate Makgoe said.

He said this Tuesday in response to a question from Economic Freedom Fighters member of the provincial legislature, Malefane Johannes Msimanga, who wanted to know, among other things, how many learners and staff had been infected in the province since school restarted.

“About 110 teachers, 51 learners, 12 office-based officials — including subject advisers and those based at district and province offices — and 21 non-teaching staff at the schools have been affected,” Makgoe responded during the virtual legislature sitting.

This means about 194 individuals in the provincial school system have contracted the disease over the past month.

Makgoe also took the opportunity to respond to criticism that children’s lives were at risk as most schools were not ready to receive them.

He said given the current statistics, children are much safer from COVID-19 when they go to school than when they stay home because their interactions cannot always be monitored.

“International evidence demonstrates that — and even here in our own province — children who are below 19 years of age are least affected by COVID-19,” the MEC said.

“Even from the statistics I have just given, despite that there are much more learners in schools than teachers, the biggest number of people who have tested positive were teachers. So, it shows that indeed science is correct.”

Makgoe said even the courts have ruled in their favour saying learners, particularly the younger ones, should not be kept at home as their chances of being affected by COVID-19 were minimal.

The MEC said the provincial education department has been very risk averse in its approach to the reopening of schools were children have been allowed back in small numbers to avoid congestion.

He said the department is convinced the strategy is appropriate and learners can safely return to school rather than stay home.

“I think the other reason we have advanced as the department of education is that it is safer for children to be at school,” Makgoe said.

“Most of us who have stayed in the townships know what is happening during the day when kids go to play outside.

“They are exchanging toys, playing . . . and so forth, and then go back home without being tested.

“But at least at school, when the child arrives every day, there will be a screening process which includes, amongst others, taking the temperature, filling in a screening questionnaire and teachers have also been trained to be able to identify some of the symptoms of the disease.”

He added that the systems at schools had been tested and have proven to be able to pick up challenges.

As at July 7, the Free State had recorded 2 803 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

There were 565 recoveries and 19 deaths, leaving the province with 2 219 active cases.


Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks



PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier



MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall



DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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