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COVID-19 variant ravaging India might already be here in SA – NICD

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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says it cannot rule out the possibility that the B.1.617 variant first detected in India might already be in South Africa.

Acting director of the NICD, Professor Adrian Puren, says when they look at all the other variants in circulation, it may well be inevitable that other variants will reach local shores because of travel.

“It is possible that the B.1.617 variant first detected in India has reached our shores because of travel,” he said.

“It is really critical for us to have a track and trace and quarantine process activated in order to ensure we have reduced transmission.”

The B.1.617 variant has raised global concern after being reported in 17 countries including Germany, Belgium, the UK, Switzerland, the US, Singapore and Fiji.

The variant carries two mutations in the all-important spike protein that enables SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to infect unsuspecting cells of these.

Multiple mutations such as these threaten to create a virus that is not only more contagious and potentially deadlier, but one that can also evade a vaccinated body’s immune system.

Meanwhile, on Monday, senior clinical adviser and head of infection control at Netcare, Dr Caroline Maslo, confirmed that a patient who recently arrived in South Africa from India was treated in isolation at a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We can however confirm that one patient who had recently travelled from India was treated in isolation for COVID-19 at a hospital in KwaZulu-Natal,” she said.

“We remain vigilant in maintaining strict safety precautions in our facilities and apply an abundance of caution in treating all patients.

“South Africa’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is still relatively low at five percent, and although we remain cautiously optimistic for now, it remains vital that every person does their part and practises prevention measures including social distancing, hand washing, sanitising, wearing a face mask covering both the mouth and nose, and avoiding poorly ventilated areas.” – ANA

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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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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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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