Connect with us

National

SA ends national state of disaster

Published

on

Staff Reporter

South Africa has ended the national state of disaster put in place over two years ago to try and contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement on Monday evening, stating that while a host of control measures have now been removed, others such as the wearing of masks indoors and the number of people permitted at certain gatherings will remain in place.

“Since the requirements for a national state of disaster to be declared in terms of the Disaster Management Act are no longer met, cabinet has decided to terminate the national state of disaster with effect from midnight tonight,” he said.

According to the president, the Disaster Management Act provides that certain elements of the regulations may remain in place for a limited period for “post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation”.

As a result, certain transitional provisions will remain in place for a period of 30 days after the termination of the national state of disaster to ensure essential public health precautions and other necessary services are not interrupted while the new regulations in terms of the National Health Act come into effect.

“What this means is that all regulations and directions made in terms of the Disaster Management Act following the declaration of the national state of disaster in response to COVID-19 are repealed with effect from midnight tonight, with the exception of a few transitional measures,” Ramaphosa explained.
Among the measures to remain in place for a month, people will still be required to wear a face mask in an indoor public space to prevent transmission in high-risk places.

A mask is not required when outdoors.

The existing restrictions on gatherings will also remain in place as a transitional measure.

This means that both indoor and outdoor venues can take up to 50 percent of their capacity without any maximum limit, provided that proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours is required for entrance to the venue.

Where there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a COVID test, then the current upper limit of 1 000 people indoors and 2 000 people outdoors will remain.

The president also said the existing provisions with respect to international travel will remain in place.

This means that travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.

If a traveller does not submit a vaccine certificate or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, they will be required to do an antigen test on arrival.

If they test positive for COVID-19, they will need to isolate for 10 days.

Ramaphosa said the payment of the special R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant will remain in place to allow the Department of Social Development to finalise the regulations that will allow the payment of the grant to continue.

The measures put in place for the extension of the validity of a learner’s licence, driving licence card, licence disc, professional driving permit and registration of a motor vehicle will remain in place.

“All other disaster regulations will fall away at midnight tonight. These include regulations on isolation of persons, on schools and access to old age homes, on public transport, on initiation practices, on cargo transportation, and on criminalisation of non-adherence to these rules,” Ramaphosa said.

“The end of the national state of disaster also means that the coronavirus alert levels will no longer apply,” he added.

“The few transitional measures that remain are limited in scope, and allow almost all social and economic activity to resume as normal.

“They are essential to reduce the risk of a further COVID-19 wave and further disaster.”

South Africa has been under a national state of disaster for a total of 750 days in response to a global health crisis that posed a grave threat to the lives and the well-being of the people.

The declaration of the national state of disaster on 15 March 2020 empowered the government to take the measures that prevented many more people from becoming severely ill and saved countless lives.

These measures were effective in slowing down the rate of infection, easing pressure on hospitals and providing the time needed to develop the infrastructure, resources and capacity to manage a large number of people who became ill as a result of COVID-19.

During the third wave in July last year, the highest average daily number of COVID-related deaths recorded was 420.

In the fourth wave, in February this year, the highest daily number of COVID-related deaths was 240.

In the past week, this number has dropped to just 12.

Of the 108 000 regular beds in the country, only 1 805 are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.

And of the 5 600 ICU beds in the country, only 175 are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Local

Guptas lose application to have restraint order case postponed

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Local

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Local

Magashule escapes Zondo rap over asbestos project ‘scam’

Published

on

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2022. The Free Stater. All Rights Reserved