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COVID-19 shuts two Free State schools

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Staff Reporter

Eunice High School in Bloemfontein and Tebang Primary School in Phuthaditjhaba have been forced to close after some learners and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

A statement released by provincial education department spokesperson Howard Ndaba on Thursday said two kitchen staff, five boarders and a teacher had tested positive for the acute respiratory disease over the past week.

“Eunice High School will be closed from Friday, 21 May to Monday 31 May . . . as a precautionary measure,” read part of the statement.

The school will offer online teaching and learning over that period.

Boarders will be allowed to return to hostels on Sunday, May 30.

Tebang Primary School was closed earlier to allow for decontamination.

“The department . . . calls on parents and members of the community to avoid visiting schools unless it is really necessary,” said Ndaba in the statement.

At Rekgonne Primary School, also in Bloemfontein, a teacher also tested positive.

Bohmer Special School in the city had four positive cases of learners, while Bloemfontein South Secondary School reported three cases of learners.

Ladybrand Secondary School reported two cases of teachers, while one non-teaching staff member at Jimmy Roos tested positive.

A district official working under the National Schools Nutrition Programme was also infected.

Elsewhere, Sasamala Secondary School, Mohaladitwe Secondary School and Retief Hoer Skool had two teachers, one teacher and one learner, respectively, testing positive.

According to Ndaba, schools in Lejweleputswa district registered 52 positive cases between May 17 and 20, of which 17 were teachers, 27 learners, seven administrative clerks and one cleaner.

In Fezile Dabi district, at Malakabeng Primary School several teachers tested positive, while at HTS Sasolburg there were three learners; Vaalpark Articon Secondary School one learner; Cedar Secondary School one teacher; and Dorrinton Matsepe Primary School three teachers as well as the death of one teacher due to COVID-19 complications.

About 30 learners have tested positive in Xhariep district where two non-teaching staff have also contracted the disease as well as 14 teachers. One teacher succumbed to the disease.

“The Free State Department of Education calls on learners, teachers and non-teaching staff in all our schools to be vigilant and religiously observe non-pharmaceutical COVID-19 protocols which include wearing of face masks, regular sanitising of hands at all times and keeping adequate social distance,” said Ndaba in the statement.

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

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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

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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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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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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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