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It’s not just alcohol, cigarettes that are back . . . Here’s what else will change

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Staff Reporter

South Africa has lifted the ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products while all restrictions on inter-provincial travel will also be removed starting on Monday as the country moves to Alert Level 2 of the national lockdown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the move is guided by advice from health experts as the country’s health system is no longer under pressure from COVID-19 patients as the number of infections continues to go down.

“Guided by the advice of our health experts and after consultation with provincial and local government, cabinet has decided to place the entire country on Alert Level 2, with effect from midnight on Monday, the 17th of August,” he said.

The president said this in a televised national address on Saturday evening to give an update on developments in the country’s risk-adjusted strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19.

The address followed a meeting earlier this week of the National Coronavirus Command Council as well as today’s meeting of the President’s Coordinating Council and Cabinet.

Alert Level 2, in terms of the country’s risk-adjusted strategy in dealing with the pandemic, means that there is a moderate COVID-19 spread of the virus with a relatively high health system readiness.

“The move to Level 2 means that we can remove nearly all of the restrictions on the resumption of economic activity across most industries,” Ramaphosa said.

“Economic activity will be allowed with the necessary and appropriate stringent health protocols and safety precautions in place.”

Key changes to take effect under Level 2 include:

  • All restrictions on inter-provincial travel will be lifted.
  • Accommodation, hospitality venues and tours will be permitted according to approved protocols to ensure social distancing.
  • Restaurants, bars and taverns will be permitted to operate according to approved protocols as to times of operation and numbers of people.
  • Restrictions on the sale of tobacco will be lifted.
  • The suspension of the sale of alcohol will be lifted subject to certain restrictions: alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only up until 10pm; liquor outlets will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption from Monday to Thursday during the hours of 9am to 5pm only.
  • Restrictions on family and social visits will also be lifted, although everyone is urged to exercise extreme caution and undertake such visits only if necessary.

The president said strict health protocols should still be observed during family visits because infections have been known to take place during such occasions.

“Social distancing should be observed, masks should continue to be worn and special care should be taken to protect the elderly and people with underlying conditions,” he said.

“Familiarity with each other should not allow us to forget these precautions.”

The current restrictions on international travel will however remain in place and no gatherings of more than 50 people will be permitted, including at funerals and religious events.

Spectators will not be permitted at sporting events and the curfew will remain in place between the hours of 10pm and 4am.

Ramaphosa said over the last three weeks, the number of new confirmed cases has dropped from a peak of over 12 000 a day to an average over the past week of around 5 000 a day.

The recovery rate from coronavirus has risen from 48 to 80 percent.

He said the cumulative number of cases in the country however remains extremely high at 583 653.

The virus, according to the president, appears to have peaked in several provinces, including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and possibly in KwaZulu-Natal.

He said fewer people are presenting with symptoms at health facilities across the country.

There are also fewer people requiring admission at hospitals and the demand for coronavirus tests has dropped.

“The number of patients hospitalised has decreased from 10 000 at the beginning of the month to around 4 000. This is significantly reducing the pressure on our health facilities,” Ramaphosa said.

A total of 11 667 people have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in South Africa.

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Guptas lose application to have restraint order case postponed

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NO SMILING MATTER . . . An interim restraint order against a company that Atul Gupta, seen in this file photo, co-owns with his brother and their wives remains in force

The Free State High Court on Friday dismissed a last-minute application brought by the directors of the Gupta-owned slandsite Investments 180 (Pty) to postpone the return day of the provisional restraint order against company, Iqbal Sharma and others.

Acting Judge Neil Snellenburg will provide a written judgment for dismissing the postponement application on Monday.

The directors sought a postponement pending their application to the Supreme Court of Appeal where they are appealing against a High Court ruling passed in August 2021 that said the business rescue practitioners of Islandsite, not the directors, have the authority to represent the company in the restraint proceedings.

Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said in a statement the interim restraint order will remain in force until the next court hearing on 20 and 21 October, when the confirmation hearing is expected to be heard.

The assets under restraint include properties of Iqbal Sharma and his wife, his UAE-registered company, Issar Global, his wife Tarina Patel-Sharma, as well as all property of Islandsite, which is owned by Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their respective wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta.

The interim restraint order was granted in June 2021, in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA).

Sharma’s assets that form part of the curator’s inventory include his Sandton home valued at over R12-million.

The property was featured on the lifestyle television programme, Top Billing, and is owned by Issar Global.

Other assets include movable property valued at R500 000, a Porsche and a R1.3 million sectional title home in Sandton.

Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21-million in Constantia, Cape Town, and a R12-million house in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.

Said Seboka: “The interim restraint order continues to run . . . that means the curator that is looking after the assets remains in place, meaning there is no chance for those assets being disseminated.

“The state is quite comfortable that the assets will not be taken abroad or be given to other people, in terms of the shares.

“They continue to be in safekeeping.

“For us that is pivotal and the court has found enough evidence in that respect.” – Staff Reporter

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Ex-MEC faces probe over failed R1-billion Free State housing project

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NO PROPER LEADERSHIP . . . Former Free State MEC for human settlements Mosebenzi Zwane criticised

The State Capture Commission wants former Free State MEC for human settlements Mosebenzi Zwane investigated for failing to provide “proper provincial leadership” in a failed R1-billion provincial housing project.

The department’s former head, Nthimotse Mokhesi, told the commission, led by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that his office had made an advance payment of more than R500-million to the project’s contractors before any work was done.

Described in the fourth part of the State Capture Commission’s report as a “dismal failure”, the housing project was dogged by several factors including a decision by former Free State premier Ace Magashule to build bigger RDP houses from the initial 40-square-metre units without consulting the provincial human settlements department and the contractors.

The commission found that Zwane, the human settlements MEC at the time, “failed to provide proper provincial leadership” with regard to the R1-billion housing project.

The report criticised Magashule for not monitoring projects and not holding Zwane accountable.

It said instead Magashule made Zwane the MEC for agriculture, “where he continued with his dismal performance”, resulting in the Estina/Vrede Dairy Farm collapse. – Staff Reporter

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Magashule escapes Zondo rap over asbestos project ‘scam’

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ASBESTOS PROJECT CASE . . . Former Free State premier Ace Magashule is facing charges of corruption, fraud, theft and others together with 15 co-accused

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has not made any recommendations in his latest state capture report for a criminal investigation against former Free State premier Ace Magashule for his role in the failed 2014 asbestos eradication project for which he is currently standing trial.

Zondo, in the fourth part of the State Capture Commission’s report, instead recommended that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) consider charges against the head of the Free State human settlements department, Nthimotse Mokhesi; businessman Edwin Sodi; and former director-general of the department of human settlements Thabane Wiseman Zulu for their roles in the asbestos audit and removal debacle.

Magashule is facing charges of corruption, fraud, theft and others together with 15 co-accused who include Mokhesi, Sodi, Zulu and several companies for their part in the asbestos contract worth over R255-million.

The report also urges the government to seek legal opinion on whether it could recover the money paid to Sodi’s company Blackhead Consulting and its joint venture partner Diamond Hill to audit and remove asbestos roofing on identified houses in the Free State.

It also found the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture lied to the provincial authorities about its ability to do the job.

The use as well as the manufacture and processing of asbestos was banned in South Africa in March 2008 as it is a serious health hazard to the lungs.

The Free State human settlements department embarked on the project after it approved an unsolicited proposal from from the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture.

This, according to the report, was done without following any competitive process.

“The department paid about R255-million to the joint-venture but ultimately no asbestos was removed from the roofs of houses,” the report says.

“It turned out that this joint-venture was not even qualified to undertake the removal of asbestos despite the fact that they had told the department in their proposal and in the service legal agreement that they signed with the provincial department that they had the qualifications, skill, expertise and experience required for the job.”

The report described the project as “a considerable scam from its inception”.

It said it was clear the project “was always intended to unlawfully benefit a certain business consortium”, adding those benefits were also intended for various government officials.

Just as in the matter before the Free State High Court, the report indicates that Sodi paid R650 000 towards the purchase of a property for Mokhesi in Bloemfontein.

“The commission is satisfied that this payment was made as a reward or inducement or both for the asbestos contract,” said the report.

It found Mokhesi as a central figure in the awarding of the contract to the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture.

The human settlements MEC at the time, Olly Mlamleli, has not been implicated as the investigation did not look into why she did not realise that there was a problem with the project and intervene timeously in order to save public funds from being wasted.

The report also states that Magashule could have intervened together with Mlamleli.

The report wants Mokhesi investigated for corruption following his decision to contract the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture.

It has also recommended an investigation for possible prosecution for breaching provisions of the Public Finance Management Act.

He is already facing similar charges in the on-going case.

The commission also found that Sodi paid R600 000 into the account of a Ballito car dealership in December 2015 with reference “TZ” which said was common cause it stood for Thabane Zulu.

When he appeared at the commission in 2020, Sodi told the commission in 2020 that he owed Zulu for alcohol he had bought at his entertainment venue outside Pietermaritzburg.

When Zulu was asked how Sodi’s alcohol bill reached hundreds of thousands of rands, he told the commission Sodi often hosted parties for “dignitaries” at his KwaZulu-Natal home.

“Instead of taking the money I decided to instruct him to deliver the money where I wanted it,” he said.

The explanations by the two did not convince the commission which concluded the money “may well have been a bribe or reward to Mr Zulu for his role in facilitating the award of the asbestos contract”.

It recommended that criminal charges relating to corruption or any other applicable crime should be pursued against Zulu for the R600 000 that Sodi paid. – Staff Reporter

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