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Ramaphosa imposes tougher COVID-19 restrictions



Faced with a rising number of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admission amid a third coronavirus wave, President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced stricter lockdown regulations.

In an address to the nation on Tuesday night, Ramaphosa moved the country to Alert Level 3 in an effort to curb the spike in COVID-19 infections.

Among the measures announced tonight is a ban on alcohol sales and new curfews that kick in from tonight when the regulations are gazetted.

The sale of alcohol will be permitted from 10am to 6pm Monday to Thursday.

Public Holidays are excluded.

On-site sale of alcohol is permitted at premises up to 9pm.

A curfew starting from 10pm to 4am will take effect from midnight while gatherings will be limited to 50 people indoors and 150 outdoors.

Attendance at funerals may not exceed 50 people and after-funeral gatherings are not allowed.

This comes as the National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported that 8 436 new COVID-19 cases have been identified in South Africa on Tuesday.

This represented a 17.8 percent positivity rate.

The World Health Organisation considers a positivity rate greater than five percent a cause for concern.

Professor Koleka Mlisana, head of the Ministerial Advisory Committee, said social gatherings and lack of restraint from South Africans to adhere to the lockdown restrictions had added to the worrying surge in COVID-19 cases.

Calling for tighter restrictions, she said that if South Africans did not manage the steep increase in infections it will “spill over to the healthcare facilities”.

“At an individual level, people are not adhering to the regulations of social distancing and not wearing masks. We need to be accountable citizens,” she said. – IOL

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17 confirmed dead at East London tavern



HORROR AT CLUB . . . Police are investigating the deaths of at least 17 patrons at a tavern in East London

Authorities are investigating the deaths of at least 17 patrons found inside a popular township tavern in East London, police officials said on Sunday.

Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said police were alerted by members of the public to the incident at Scenery Park, about three kms from the city centre.

“The circumstances under which they died are under investigation,” Kinana said, adding it was too early to determine the cause of death of the young adults aged between 18-20 years. – Reuters

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Zondo wants Magashule, Zwane charged over failed Vrede Dairy Project



CALLING FOR ACTION . . . Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wants law enforcement agencies to pursue Free State government officials involved in the failed Vrede Dairy Project

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has marked the trio of former Free State premier Ace Magashule, former MEC Mosebenzi Zwane and former head of the provincial agriculture department Peter Thabethe as possibly liable for the infamous Vrede Dairy Project and wants them charged for their roles in the failed enterprise.

In the latest report of the State Capture Commission of Inquiry released on Wednesday evening, Zondo found that the Free State provincial government unlawfully paid a Gupta family-linked company, Estina, over R280-million for a project that ironically sidelined small-scale black farmers – the intended beneficiaries of the project – and got nothing in return.

“The whole Vrede Dairy Project (debacle) happened because Mr Thabethe dismally failed to do his job and failed to protect the interests of the [department of agriculture and rural development] and to protect taxpayers’ money,” read part of the report.

Thabethe is already facing criminal charges – together with other people and companies – in connection with the failed dairy project but the matter has been provisionally removed from the court roll.

Zwane and Magashule have however not been charged in the matter.

“It also happened because Mr Mosebenzi Zwane as MEC was pursuing the agenda of the Guptas and did not do his job to perform oversight over Mr Thabethe,” added the report.

“It also happened because the premier of the province, Mr Ace Magashule, would have also been pursuing the agenda of the Guptas.”

The main idea behind the Vrede Dairy Project was to introduce black farmers in the Memel and Vrede areas to farming with dairy cows, process their milk and sell milk products on the provincial and national dairy products market.

The farmers were told about the project by Zwane.

However, the promises made to these community members were never realised.

At best, according to the report, a few members of the community were employed at the dairy project as manual workers.

None of the local black dairy farmers were invited to bring their milk for processing at the dairy farm.

The investigation found that the consultancy work on the dairy project appears to have been undertaken by companies from outside South Africa which had some association with the Gupta family enterprises.

It said Estina had R16 in its bank account before the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development gave it a R30-million prepayment for the Vrede project in June 2012.

The prepayment was arranged by Zwane.

At the time, Estina had just one director, Kamal Vasram, a sales manager at the controversial Gupta family’s Sahara Computers.

“The company had no experience whatsoever in farming, never mind milk farming, or the crucial milk processing prior to its appointment. The core business of the company on the date of its appointment was still slated as ‘business consultant’,” said Zondo in the report.

Thabethe did not subject the project to competitive bidding and signed the contract with Estina without doing any due diligence, thereby violating the Public Finance Management Act.

“The Vrede Dairy Project failed in its first two years of operation . . . because of Mr Thabethe’s incompetence or because he was carrying out the agenda of the Guptas and cared less about the taxpayers’ money and the black farmers.

“Apart from anything else, Mr Thabethe must be held both criminally and civilly liable for his role in causing the department to lose so many millions of rands in taxpayers’ money,” Zondo suggested.

He said the Provincial Executive Council (EXCO) should have required Zwane and Thabethe to place before it full documentation which showed that all the legal and relevant prescripts had been complied with and that the implementation of the project and the appointment of Estina would be appropriate and reasonable.

Zondo dismissed the evidence of former treasury MEC Elzabe Rockman that a resolution of the executive council that the provincial agriculture department should implement the dairy project did not imply any breach of the law.

“This is so because the resolution said nothing about complying with the legal prescripts,” he said.

“But also, the EXCO should have preserved giving approval for implementation until satisfied themselves that implementation could still be lawful which they did not do.”

Zondo recommended that law enforcement agencies conduct further investigations to establish if Zwane and Magashule contravened any law in the roles they played in regard to the Vrede Dairy Project.

“The premier should have performed his oversight function over the MEC, Mr Zwane and the head of department Mr Thabethe, but failed dismally,” he said.

“It is necessary that there be consequences for people who fail to do their job . . . otherwise, this corruption and these acts of state capture are going to continue forever to the detriment of the country and all people.

“Neither the Provincial Legislature nor the ANC called the premier to account for the asbestos project and the R1-billion Housing Project debacle.

“Premiers must know they must supervise the MECs and their departments.”

Zondo also suggested that legal proceedings should be put in place in order to recover from Zwane and Magashule some of the monies lost by the provincial agriculture department in the Vrede Dairy Project as a result of their failure to perform their legal obligations.

He also wants members of the Gupta family and their associates involved in the dairy project to be criminally charged. – Staff Reporter

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Masks no longer compulsory as SA drops COVID-19 measures



PANDEMIC MEASURES REMOVED . . . South Africa has repealed its COVID-19 regulations, including the compulsory wearing of masks

South Africa has dropped the compulsory wearing of masks in indoor settings as well as other measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 following a marked decline in active cases.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla confirmed this during a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.

On Wednesday, he published a notice in the Government Gazette repealing the country’s COVID-19 regulations.

The minister also announced that limits on gathering sizes and border checks for COVID-19 also fall way with immediate effect.

According to Phaahla, by mid-June the country recorded a marked drop in new reported cases while the number of hospitalisations also dropped.

The effective reproductive rate of the virus declined to under 0.7 percent and the reported deaths also declined. – Staff Reporter

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