Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday night unveiled new rules around schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said at least 408,052 cases of Covid-19 had already been confirmed in the country. This is the fifth-highest number of cases worldwide and represents half of all cases in Africa.
According to the president, the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal are currently experiencing the highest increase in the number of cases of Covid-19. There is a decrease in the number of cases in the Western Cape. “It seems as if the Western Cape may have already reached its peak,” he said. “However, we remain vigilant and prepared and apply strict preventive measures.”
Ramaphosa said South Africa also experienced a very low mortality rate with fewer deaths compared to countries with the same number of Covid-19 cases. More than 6,000 people have already died due to Covid-19.
The president said the health and well-being of schoolchildren and teachers enjoy the highest priority when deciding whether schools can open their doors. “It is just as important that the progress of learners is not hindered. Disruption of their education can have a devastating impact on an entire generation. It is therefore essential to balance all these goals. ”
Ramaphosa said since there has been an increase in the number of cases in various parts of the country, there have been requests for schools to close again. “The department of basic education has met with more than 60 organizations in the past few days. There were also discussions with the Council of Education Ministers representing the provincial departments. These discussions provided important insights into the experience of the various stakeholders and resulted in a wide range of divergent opinions. It is important to mention that it was difficult to reach a consensus on the best approach, just as there are different views locally and internationally on the conditions under which schools should open. What everyone agrees on, however, is that learners’ health, academic, and social development must remain a top priority. ”
The cabinet has decided that all public schools will close again for the next four weeks. This means that schools will close on 27 July and reopen on 24 August. However, there are a few exceptions:
- Grade 12 learners and their teachers return to school on 3 August
- Grade 7 learners and their teachers return to school on 10 August.
- Specific arrangements will be made for the different categories of special schools.
Due to the disruption, the current academic year will be extended until after 2021.
Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education, will provide further details on the management of the rest of the school year.
However, the national school nutrition program will still be continued so that learners or their parents can still collect food directly from the school.
“I realize that this arrangement will disappoint many learners who would like to return to school and that it is inconvenient and difficult for many families who now have to make alternative arrangements. However, we ask you to do this, because it is important to make sure that schools do not become transfer sites at a time when cases are increasing rapidly. ”
He thanked teachers and school staff nationwide for being on the front lines during the pandemic under difficult circumstances.
As for the R500 billion relief package announced in April, the president said he was concerned about cases where some of the money was stolen or misused or where exorbitant prices for goods were demanded or food parcels were diverted from needy households, and where corruption and mismanagement are of state money.
“We are hearing more and more allegations about fraudulent UIF claims, excessive prices for goods and services, abuse of emergency procurement regulations, a conspiracy between officials and service providers, abuse of the distribution of food parcels and counterfeit non-profit organizations trying to obtain financing,” he said. said. “We have said from the beginning that no corruption will be tolerated in the use of these resources. Corruption endangers human lives. ”
Various precautionary measures have been put in place, including regulations by the national treasury to ensure that the emergency procurement of products and services meets the constitutional requirements of fairness, transparency, competitiveness, and cost-effectiveness.
Regulations have also been put in place to prevent exploitation and ensure the availability of essential goods.
“Since the beginning of the disaster, the Competition Commission has already investigated more than 800 complaints of excessive prices. The commission has so far prosecuted 28 companies or entered into a settlement with them. Fines of more than R16 million have been imposed. “
At least 36 cases are also currently being investigated by a co-operative and co-ordinating center between the financial intelligence center, the independent police investigation directorate, the national prosecuting authority, the Hawks, criminal intelligence, the SAPS detective service, the South African Revenue Service, the Special Investigation Unit and the State Security Agency. The center investigates allegations of corruption in the distribution of food parcels, welfare grants, the purchase of personal protective equipment and other medical equipment, and the UIF’s special Covid-19 scheme.
“To expedite the process, today I instructed the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to investigate any illegal or improper conduct in the procurement of goods or services during the disaster at any state institution. This enables the SOE to investigate any allegations of misuse of Covid-19 funds. If there is evidence that a crime has been committed, the SOE is obliged to refer the evidence to the prosecuting authority. The SOE can also start civil proceedings to recover any funds. ”
Meanwhile, more than 4.4 million people have already received the special Covid-19 grant and R2.2 billion has already been paid out. “There have been delays in the payout, but future payments will be able to take place faster, now that the system is in place.” The allowance will be paid out over six months.
In April, May, and June, the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s special Covid-19 benefit had already paid out R34 billion and supported 7.5 million workers and retrenchments were prevented at numerous companies, Ramaphosa added. This scheme has now been extended by another six weeks until 15 August 2020.
More than R70 billion in tax relief was also offered to companies.