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South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Thursday 26 March

We’ve gone on a stockpiling news spree to bring you all the latest headlines making waves across the country.

It’s countdown to lockdown today amid prayers and panic buying as South Africans brace themselves for 21 days of home confinement which will come into effect at midnight.

After the number of coronavirus infections in South Africa multiplied six-fold in just eight days, President Cyril Ramaphosa took the bold step of announcing a lockdown on Monday 23 March. Our country will effectively join more than three billion people who have been asked to stay at home in almost 70 countries and territories as governments battle the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster have briefed the nation on Wednesday in Tshwane on how the might of the law will come down upon those who do not toe the thin blue lockdown line. And Police Minister Bheki Cele has announced it’s going to be a very dry lockdown indeed…

In sports news, Jake White’s appointment as the Blue Bulls’ director of rugby makes for one of the few happenings amid the coronavirus blowing the final whistle on global sports events for the time being

Today’s latest news in South Africa, Thursday 26 March

Coronavirus continues its relentless spread through SA

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize reported on Wednesday morning that the country’s number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus jumped to 709 from 554 on Tuesday. This equates to an alarming increase of 28% in just 24 hours.

The latest national data shows that at 319, Gauteng has by far the highest number of COVID-19 cases out of all nine provinces, followed by the Western Cape with 183 and KwaZulu-Natal with 91.

And in a grim prediction, the health minister said government is expecting a further increase in numbers as tests continue to trickle in.

According to Mkhize, the COVID-19 test only takes three hours, but it is the moving of specimens between testing centres and labs which maybe causing the delay.

With concerns over the high cost of the COVID-19 test, Mkhize added that discussions with the private sector are underway to lower costs. A test at a private hospital can set you back by a steep R1 400.

Laying down the lockdown law

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced that the South African Defence Force (SANDF) will assist the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the following ways during the period of the lockdown:

Foot patrols;
The military will safeguard borders and ports of entry; and
Conduct cordon and search operations.

Citizens — unless they provide an essential service — will only be allowed to access pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, supermarkets and collect welfare grants. All other non-essential establishments will close their doors at midnight on Thursday.

And don’t even think about throwing a “lockdown braai”… The sale of alcohol will also come to an abrupt end during the three-week period, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele.

“No movement of liquor from point A to point B. There shall be no movement. If you break these laws, you will be in prison for six months or be fined or both. 

A nation of “braaivleis, rugby and sunny skies” we definitely won’t be while under the strict confines of lockdown.

Read: Things you won’t be allowed to do at home during lockdown.

Sorry, Butch…No more ‘walkies’

You will, however, be allowed to walk your dog around the house. In his Wednesday briefing, Cele also said people won’t be allowed to exercise outside their homes during the three weeks, contradicting earlier comments by the health minister.

“There’s no need to move around. The cluster met, we had discussions and agreed that there will be no walking of dogs. It doesn’t enhance the call made by the president. If you really want to walk your dog, do it around your house – it ends there.

This is in stark contrast to other countries under lockdown where an hour of outdoor exercise is still allowed.

In the United Kingdom (UK) one form of exercise a day, such as a run, walk or cycle, can be done alone, with members of one’s household, or indeed with one’s faithful furry friend.

Another example is in Paris where pet owners are allowed to take their dogs for a walk or go for a run in their immediate neighbourhood, provided they keep a safe distance from others.

Essential transport services to continue

“Minibus taxis will be allowed to transport essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements,” Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Wednesday.

See the list of essential services workers here.

The minister said transport movements in this regard will be allowed to operate from 05:00 to 09:00 and again from 16:00 to 20:00. 

Operators must put measures in place to adhere to social distancing in order to curb the spread of the virus.

“All minibus taxis must be sanitised after every trip. All taxi ranks must be sanitised at regular intervals. Where appropriate, government will provide assistance,” Mbalula said.

Metered taxis and e-hailing vehicles will also be allowed to transport essential services workers and those allowed to make the necessary permitted movements.

Courts will operate to a limited extent

South African courts would remain open, but only to a limited extent to deal with urgent matters, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said on Wednesday. 

“Broadly, the courts will, as an essential service, remain open for the filing of papers and hearing of urgent applications, bail applications and appeals or matters relating to violations of liberty, domestic violence, maintenance and matters involving children,” Mogoeng said. 

This means that Parliamentary speaker Thandi Modise would have to face the music in court on 31 March after she failed to arrive at the Potchefstroom Regional Court on Tuesday, prompting the judges to action an arrest warrant.

In July 2014, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) obtained a warrant to inspect the animals on a farm in the North West province belonging to Modise. This followed a tip-off that animals on the property had been abandoned. It was, in their words, “one of the cruellest cases of animal abuse that the NSPCA had come across”.

And of course, former president Jacob Zuma is also due to appear for his corruption trial in Pietermaritzburg on 6 May. It remains to be seen whether he will cite ill-health again to try and side-step the long arm of the law.

SA virus carriers charged with attempted murder

The SAPS have charged two men with attempted murder for allegedly continuing to go out after they tested positive for the coronavirus, exposing others to the infection.

Cele announced the charges on Wednesday during the media briefing detailing the enforcement of the incoming lockdown.

“If you break these laws of regulations you are six months in, or fined, or both,” said Cele. 

“Two people have been charged already… who deliberately moved around after they were told not to,” the tough-talking police minister warned.

The first case was a 52-year-old salon owner diagnosed with coronavirus on 18 March and instructed to quarantine for at least 14 days.

Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said local officials raised the alert on Tuesday after the man was seen around Ladysmith, in KwaZulu-Natal.

The second charge was filed against a male tourist who tested positive for COVID-19 while on holiday at Kruger National Park.

Naidoo said the man ignored instructions to remain in his hotel and went to the nearby town of Saint Lucia, where he interacted “with an unknown number of people”. ( Source: AFP )

Load shedding unlikely during lockdown

About a month ago, we probably never thought of saying that Eskom is the only light at the end of a very dark tunnel. One shudders to think of what the lethal combination of load shedding under lockdown could do to the collective psyche of an already worn-out nation.

But, according to Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe the possibility of load shedding during the 21-day nationwide lockdown is unlikely.

“The supply of fuel to the relevant critical and essential services, as well as the supply of coal to Eskom for electricity supply and liquid fuels production, are critical during this period.

“Supplying Eskom with coal is a requirement and with the lockdown, demand will be very low so it is unlikely that we will have load shedding,” said Mantashe.

Eskom echoed this in a statement on Wednesday, saying it does not expect to implement load shedding during the COVID-19 national lockdown…but the possibility that it may be implemented remained. 

“As an essential and critical services supplier, some of Eskom’s personnel are exempt from the provisions of the lockdown. As such, we do not expect any impediments to the generation and supply of electricity during this period. 

“Our suppliers, particularly the coal mines, logistics suppliers and those supplying the parts and maintenance services at our power stations, will be able to operate through the lockdown,” said the embattled power utility.”

Credo Mutwa passes away at 98

Ramaphosa has expressed sorrow at the passing of renowned traditional healer, prophet, author and cultural historian Bab’ Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa .

Bab’ Credo, as he was popularly known, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 98.

“On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and supporters of Bab’ Credo.

“We have lost one of our most ardent champions of African cultural heritage preservation, who dedicated his life to fighting ignorance of our African customs.

“Our country is the poorer at his passing, but he leaves behind a vast body of work and a wealth of knowledge that we will continue to study and learn from in years to come,” said the president.

Regarded by his followers and supporters as a prophet and diviner, Credo Mutwa predicted a number of domestic and international events of significance, such as the Soweto Uprisings of 1976, the 1993 assassination of Chris Hani, and conflict between the US and Iran. ( Source: SA News )

Anti-dog fighting task team remains committed to addressing scourge

The office of the Western Cape Provincial Minister of Community Safety Albert Fritz convened its second meeting on the planned anti-dog fighting task team.

The meeting was held over Microsoft Teams to promote social distancing and it included officials from the Department of Community Safety, members of the Cape Animal Welfare Forum (CAWF), animal activists and City of Cape Town law enforcement officials.

The purpose of the anti-dog fighting task team is to comprehensively address the issue of dog fighting in the Western Cape.

Fritz called on anyone with information related to dog fighting to immediately report such to the SAPS on 08600 10111 and City of Cape Town Law Enforcement on 086 076 5423.

Jake White replaces Zondagh at the Bulls

The Bulls have appointed former Springbok coach Jake White as director of rugby, the franchise confirmed on Wednesday.

The 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning coach has been in charge of Japanese outfit Toyota Verblitz since 2007 and now joins the Pretoria-based franchise effective immediately.

His contract will see him at the nation’s capital until 2023, as he steps into the post vacated by Alan Zondagh earlier in the year.

SA first-class and one-day cricket competitions reformatted

Cricket South Africa (CSA) on Wednesday announced the domestic playing structure for the franchise and provincial 2020/2021 season that will also see the innovative launch of new competitions at amateur level.

The six franchises will again contest the professional competitions while all 15 affiliates will be involved in the provincial competitions.

The new structures, as recommended by the CSA Cricket Committee, were approved at a joint meeting of the CSA Members’ Council and the CSA Board of Directors.

The changed structures were developed by the Domestic Cricket Review Committee headed by former International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive David Richardson.

“It is important that we announce the new structures timeously, so all franchises and provinces have a clear picture of the road ahead to advise the contracting of their players,” said CSA acting chief executive Jacques Faul.

“Our schools, clubs and universities are vital components to our development pipeline and these competitions will grow our cricket pathways significantly,” he concluded. ( Source: ANA )

For more on the changes made to franchise cricket, read here.

Lions sign Proteas fast bowler Sipamla

 The Lions on Wednesday announced the signing of fast bowler Lutho Sipamla from the Warriors.

The 21-year-old has already represented South Africa in four One-Day Internationals and five T20 internationals.

Since making his franchise debut at the Wanderers Stadium for the Warriors in 2017, Sipamla has been a consistent performer for the Eastern Cape side in all formats of the game taking a total of 136 career wickets. ( Source: ANA )

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