Author Archives: Staff Writer

COVID-19: Old Mutual announces R4b free cover for SA’s healthcare workers

Old Mutual has announced that it will provide free cover worth R4 billion for South Africa’s 430,000 registered healthcare workers.

In a statement on Wednesday, the insurer said the cover “is neither a product nor a policy and no premiums will be recovered on it.”

“Instead, the cover will be freely accessible to registered healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic who are selflessly working to ensure the wellbeing of impacted South Africans everywhere, every day,” it added.

Cover available until 31 December, 2020

The cover will be available for members of the Healthcare Professionals Council of SA (HPCSA) and SA Nursing Council (SANC) from 1 April to 31 December, 2020.

“[It] includes a R10,000 sum which becomes payable in the event of death of qualifying healthcare workers, and is intended to provide relief to families who may have to deal with the tragic loss of a loved one during this period. The cover has no exclusions, and will include death related to any cause” Old Mutual said.

Old Mutual’s Interim CEO Iain Williamson said the company’s 30,000-strong workforce collectively inspired the decision.

He said, “We’re acutely aware of the critical work being done by all essential services workers across the country as they continue to serve, care and protect our nation during this crisis.”

Staff at Durban hospital test positive

The news comes a day after Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize expressed concern after 66 people, including 48 staff members, tested positive for the virus at St Augustine’s hospital in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) has also called on the Health Department to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

Speaking while receiving a PPE donation from billionaire businessman Patrice Motsepe on Tuesday, Mkhize assured the union that the safety of healthcare workers “is of paramount importance.”

“No member of staff will ever be forced or harassed to go and work where they don’t feel they are properly protected,” he said.

Old Mutual also donated an additional R5 million to support national initiatives to procure PPE for essential workers.

“We believe this will go a long way in supporting the other critical essential service workers who continue to serve the public at this time,” Williamson said.

‘Nonsensical:’ EFF slams Ndabeni-Abrahams’ 2-month leave, calls for her removal

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has termed Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’ two-month special leave for breaching lockdown regulations as “nonsensical.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the party also called for her removal from the Cabinet and for the SA Police Service to take action against her.

It said, “The two-month censure imposed on the Minister for breaching the lockdown is nonsensical and suggests that Ministers and Members of the Executive must be treated as if they are above the law.”

‘Slap on the wrist’

Ramaphosa announced the censure earlier on Wednesday after meeting Ndabeni-Abrahams on Tuesday.

He said he had accepted her apology but had been “unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered,” and directed her to issue a public apology.

The President also said the law must take its course regarding allegations that the Minister had violated the lockdown regulations. He added that one month of the special leave will be unpaid.

However, the EFF said, “To lose a month’s worth of salary and be put on leave is a slap on the wrist for a contravention that mocks our collective effort as a nation.”

‘SAPS should take action’

The party added, “We call on the Minister of Police and SAPS to take the same action they have done with ordinary citizens who have violated the regulations.”

The controversy stems from a picture former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana shared on social media on Saturday. It showed Ndabeni-Abrahams having lunch with him and his family at his residence.

In a statement on Tuesday, Manana said the Minister was at his residence to collect personal protective equipment for students working on COVID-19 digital services.

The EFF however called for an investigation into Manana’s claim, saying it was “concerning” that he had “summoned” a Minister to his home to collect donations while there are “structures and mechanism” to coordinate such donations.

The EFF added, “Ministers must never meet self-purported philanthropists in their homes, as these unofficial meetings lack transparency and are a dark road towards corruption.

“Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams must be removed from the Cabinet if the integrity of the national lockdown is to be maintained and the rule of law is to be taken seriously.”

The Minister has issued a public apology and appealed to Ramaphosa and South Africans to forgive her for her actions.

WATCH: ‘I am deeply sorry for my actions’ – Ndabeni-Abrahams

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has publicly apologised for having lunch at the home of former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana during the ongoing lockdown period.

The Minister issued a statement as well as a video on Wednesday conveying her apology as directed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

She said, “I regret the incident and I am deeply sorry for my actions. I hope the President and South Africans will find it in their hearts to forgive me.”

‘I’ll abide by special leave’

Ndabeni-Abrahams added, “The President has put me on a special leave with immediate effect. I undertake to abide by the conditions of the special leave.

“I take this opportunity to reiterate the President’s call for all of us to observe the lockdown rules. They are a necessary intervention to curb the spread of a virus that has devastated many nations.”

In a statement earlier on Wednesday, Ramaphosa announced that he had placed Ndabeni-Abrahams on a two-month special leave, one of which will be unpaid.

He said he had accepted the Minister’s apology during their meeting on Tuesday, but had been “unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered.”

‘No one is above the law’

Ramaphosa said, “The nationwide lockdown calls for absolute compliance on the part of all South Africans.

“Members of the National Executive carry a special responsibility in setting an example to South Africans, who are having to make great sacrifices.

“None of us – not least a member of the National Executive – should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation.

“I am satisfied that Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams appreciates the seriousness of what she has done and that no one is above the law.”

The President also said the law should take its course regarding allegations that Ndabeni-Abrahams had violated the lockdown regulations.

On Tuesday, Manana attempted to defuse the controversy by claiming in a statement that Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting personal protective equipment (PPE) at his home.

However, it appears this explanation failed to persuade Ramaphosa, who was facing pressure from opposition leaders and sections of the public to take strong action against the Minister.

Ramaphosa places Ndabeni-Abrahams on 2-month special leave, 1 unpaid

President Cyril Ramaphosa has placed Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on a two-month special leave, one of which will be unpaid.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said the law should take its course regarding allegations that Ndabeni-Abrahams had violated lockdown regulations.

A picture shared on social media on Saturday by former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana showed Ndabeni-Abrahams having lunch with Manana and his family at his private residence.

Public apology to the nation

This sparked speculation that the Minister may have violated lockdown regulations, which prohibit people from leaving their homes unless it is for essential purposes.

Manana released a statement on Tuesday saying Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting personal protective equipment (PPEs) for students working on COVID-19 digital services.

Ramaphosa summoned the Minister on Tuesday, after which he accepted her apology “but was unmoved by mitigating factors she tendered.”

He also reprimanded Ndabeni-Abrahams and directed her to issue a public apology to the nation on the matter.

‘No one is above the law’

Ramaphosa said, “The nationwide lockdown calls for absolute compliance on the part of all South Africans. Members of the National Executive carry a special responsibility in setting an example to South Africans, who are having to make great sacrifices.

“None of us – not least a member of the National Executive – should undermine our national effort to save lives in this very serious situation.

“I am satisfied that Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams appreciates the seriousness of what she has done and that no one is above the law.”

Minister in The Presidency Jackson Mthembu will act in Ndabeni-Abrahams’ position for the two-month period.

Ndabeni-Abrahams had not yet issued her public apology at the time of publishing this article.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) had earlier called on Ramaphosa to lay a criminal complaint against the Minister and to remove her from the Cabinet.

Manana says Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting COVID-19 PPEs from his home

Former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana has said Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was collecting COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPEs) at his home on Saturday when he “courteously” invited her to join his family for lunch.

Manana’s picture of the lunch, which he posted on Instagram but later deleted, led to speculation that Ndabeni-Abrahams may have violated the lockdown regulations.

However, in a statement on Tuesday, Manana said the Minister had earlier called him to say she was visiting students working on “COVID-19 Digital Services” in the Fourways area in Johannesburg.

Manana apologises for not giving ‘clear context’

He added, “The Minister relayed to me that the students were in need of PPEs such as masks, gloves and hand sanitisers which my Foundation has been handing over to marginalised communities.

“I then asked the Minister to pass by my private residence and collect the material, which she gladly did. On her arrival, my family was having lunch and I courteously invited her to join us.

“She then collected the material and headed to her next assignment. She took the first batch for her Fourways students and indicated that her next visit will be tomorrow (08 April, 2020) at the Menlyn site which our team will be delivering.”

Manana apologised for sharing the pictures on Instagram without giving “clear context and thereby creating the impression that it was a social lunch.”

Meeting with Ramaphosa

Ndabeni-Abrahams has not yet publicly commented on the controversy. Earlier on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had summoned her to a meeting to discuss the matter.

He said, “I have asked her to come and see me, so she is going to come and see me and I am going to have a discussion with her about the impact of visuals like those on what we are trying to do.

“We are trying to instil a clear message to all our people that social distancing is important. Let us stay at home, let us not be going around with visitations and if you have to, it must be work-related.”

Opposition leaders have called on Ramaphosa to take “strong” action against Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and shadow communications minister Phumzile van Damme tweeted, “She is a leader and must set an example. I hope [Ramaphosa] takes strong action against her.

“While MPs (she is one) are considered an essential service, visiting Mdu Manana (he is not a public representative) does NOT constitute the discharging of a duty related to her office. She mustn’t even try it with that excuse.”

Ramaphosa summons Ndabeni-Abrahams amid lockdown ‘violation’ controversy

President Cyril Ramaphosa has summoned Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams amid controversy surrounding her visit to former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana’s home over the weekend.

Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said he had seen the pictures showing Ndabeni-Abrahams having a meal with Manana and other individuals.

He said, “I have asked her to come and see me, so she is going to come and see me and I am going to have a discussion with her about the impact of visuals like those on what we are trying to do.”

‘Social distancing is important’

The President added, “We are trying to instil a clear message to all our people that social distancing is important. Let us stay at home, let us not be going around with visitations and if you have to, it must be work-related.”

Manana posted the images on Instagram over the weekend, but deleted them soon afterwards. Nevertheless, screenshots emerged on Twitter on Monday.

He captioned the pictures, “It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister comrade Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on her way back from executing critical and services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown.”

Opposition leaders soon accused Ndabeni-Abrahams of violating the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Ndabeni-Abrahams ‘must set an example’

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and shadow communications minister Phumzile van Damme tweeted, “[Ndabeni-Abrahams] is a leader and must set an example. I hope [Ramaphosa] takes strong action against her.

“While MPs (she is one) are considered an essential service, visiting Mdu Manana (he is not a public representative) does NOT constitute the discharging of a duty related to her office. She mustn’t even try it with that excuse.”

One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane added, “Eita @CyrilRamaphosa, we can’t have favourites doing as they please. This virus does not care who is a minister and who is not.

“How is it that some see it fit to violate lockdown regulations to have dinner with their exiled colleagues? Can you ask them at close range?”

In a leaked letter to African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) members, ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte also called for “sensitivity” on social media. Manana is an NEC member.

Duarte wrote, “Let us lead by example and demonstrate political consciousness and sensitivity in our conduct and communication, especially on social media.

“Photos of opulent living and consumption of non-essential substances should be avoided. We must be seen to lead in both the letter and spirit of the national lockdown.”

DA to write to Ramaphosa over Ndabeni-Abrahams ‘breaking lockdown rules’

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is seemingly in hot water for “breaking lockdown rules” after visiting former deputy minister Mduduzi Manana over the weekend.

In a now-deleted Instagram post, Manana shared photos of himself hosting Ndabeni-Abrahams and other unidentified individuals for a meal at his home.

He captioned the pictures, “It was great to host a former colleague and dear sister comrade Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on her way back from executing critical and services required for the effective functioning of our country during the nationwide lockdown.”

DA MP to write to Ramaphosa

Screenshots of the deleted post surfaced on social media on Monday, prompting some to speculate that Ndabeni-Abrahams had broken the COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and shadow communications minister Phumzile van Damme tweeted that she will write to President Cyril Ramaphosa over the matter.

She wrote, “[Ndabeni-Abrahams] is a leader and must set an example. I hope he takes strong action against her.

“An important thing to note here: while MPs (she is one) are considered an essential service, visiting Mdu Manana (he is not a public representative) does NOT constitute the discharging of a duty related to her office. She mustn’t even try it with that excuse.”

Leaked letter to ANC NEC members

In a leaked letter to African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) members, ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte also called for “sensitivity” on social media. Manana is an NEC member.

She wrote, “Let us lead by example and demonstrate political consciousness and sensitivity in our conduct and communication, especially on social media.

“Photos of opulent living and consumption of non-essential substances should be avoided. We must be seen to lead in both the letter and spirit of the national lockdown.”

The pictures also drew the attention of One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane.

He tweeted, “Eita @CyrilRamaphosa, we can’t have favourites doing as they please. This virus does not care who is a minister and who is not.

“How is it that some see it fit to violate lockdown regulations to have dinner with their exiled colleagues? Can you ask them at close range?”

Ndabeni-Abrahams has not yet publicly commented on the controversy. Manana however told Jacaranda FM, “I think the minister must respond for herself because I was home and she was working nearby, so it was not dinner per se.”

R200m COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund for SMMEs now open for applications

The R200 million COVID-19 Tourism Relief Fund established to assist small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs) is now open for applications, the Department of Tourism has announced.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Department said the Fund will provide a once-off grant to eligible SMMEs in the tourism sector impacted by COVID-19 disruptions.

The funding will be capped at R50,000 per SMME and preference will be given to those “with the highest score in terms of the criteria,” the Department said.

Eligible categories

It added that the Fund will adhere to the Tourism Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBE) Codes of Good Practices, objectives of economic transformation, and equitable spatial distribution in terms of provinces. SMMEs in the following categories are eligible for funding:

Accommodation establishments: hotels, resort properties, Bed and Breakfast (B&Bs), guest houses, lodges, and backpackers.

Hospitality and related services: Restaurants (not attached to hotels), conference venues (not attached to hotels), professional catering, and attractions.

Travel and related services: Tour operators, travel agents, tourist guiding, care rental services, and coach operators.

SMMEs can apply online

The Department urged applicants to visit its website – http://www.tourism.gov.za – for more information on fund terms and qualifying criteria.

SMMEs can submit applications at http://www.tourismrelief.gov.za or direct further inquiries to callcentre@tourism.gov.za or covidrelief@tourism.gov.za.

Alternatively, SMMEs can call the Department’s call centre at 0860 TOURISM (868 747) on weekdays from 08:00 to 22:00.

Tourism Minister Mmamokolo Kubayi-Ngubane said SMMEs in the tourism sector are mostly “survivalist” in nature and have limited access to funding from commercial institutions.

“We acknowledge the difficulties experienced by businesses during this time, hence the need to support the industries and communities to cope with the negative effects of this pandemic,” she added.

The Department of Small Business Development has also established a R500m SMME Support Intervention, which consists of a Business Growth/Resilience Facility and a Debt Relief Fund.

Rupert’s R1b COVID-19 fund oversubscribed by nearly 3 times in just 3 days

Billionaire Johann Rupert’s R1 billion COVID-19 Sukuma Relief Programme has been oversubscribed by almost three times in just three days.

Business Partners, which is administering the Programme, said in a statement on Monday evening that the value of applications from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) had exceeded R2.8 billion.

Business Partners’ managing director Ben Bierman said, “This exceeds the available donated capital of R1 billion almost three times over. As such, we have decided to suspend access to the application portal with immediate effect.”

More than 10,000 applications

Rupert donated the money to help SMEs overcome the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business Partners is administering the donation in the form of grants and loans.

Biernan added, “Just three days after the online portal was opened for applications, the Programme has already received in excess of 10,000 applications from formal sole proprietors, close corporations, companies and trusts.

“We will now be using the next seven days to assess the applications received and provide feedback to the applicants.

“Should we thereafter find that there is still capital available, either because some of the applicants were not verified and approved, or because we have managed to secure additional capital, we will then open the Programme for applications again.”

Call for more donations

Biernan said the oversubscription is an indication of the significant impact of COVID-19’s disruptions on SMMEs around the country.

He therefore appealed to big businesses and corporations to contribute more funding to the Programme.

Besides the Programme, SMEs could also approach the SA Future Trust, which the billionaire Oppenheimer family established to administer their R1 billion donation.

The Department of Small Business Development also established a R500m SMME Support Intervention, which consists of a Business Growth/Resilience Facility and a Debt Relief Fund.

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane also announced recently that R200 million had been set aside for SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector.

COVID-19 disruptions, including the lockdown and travel bans, are expected to have a severe impact on the economy.

On Monday, the SA Reserve Bank said the economy could contract by up to 4% in 2020. It also said job losses as a result of COVID-19 could exceed 370,000.

ANC, SACP, COSATU alliance cautions Mboweni against approaching IMF for bailout

The African National Congress (ANC), SA Communist Party (SACP) and labour federation COSATU alliance has rejected Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s “suggestions” that South Africa should approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance if need be.

In a statement on Monday, the alliance’s secretariat said such a move would undermine South Africa’s sovereignty.

It said, “The suggestion is rejected. Instead, the secretariat reaffirms the need to safeguard South Africa’s democratic national sovereignty, the fundamental right to self-determination, our independence – which are non-negotiable even in the midst of a crisis.”

‘Disciplined approach to communications’

The statement was signed by ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule, SACP First Deputy General Secretary Solly Mapaila, and COSATU General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.

They were reacting to Mboweni’s recent interviews with City Press and Sunday Times, which reported him saying he could approach the IMF and the World Bank for COVID-19 response funding.

“This morning in a conversation with the Reserve Bank and the Treasury, I indicated that we should proceed and speak to the IMF and the World Bank about any facility that we can access for health purposes,” Mboweni told Sunday Times on 29 March.

However, the alliance secretariat said Mboweni’s pronouncements “underscore the importance of a coherent and disciplined approach to communications during these difficult times.”

BRICS Bank

It urged the government to instead approach the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) for assistance without undermining the country’s sovereignty.

“Government should evaluate and explore all sources of domestic finance including industrial retirement funds as well as policy instruments to tap into sources in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner to turn round South Africa in the interest of all the people especially working class and poor,” the secretariat said.

The SA Reserve bank has forecast that South Africa’s economy may contract by 2.6% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. Moody’s and Fitch credit rating agencies have also downgraded South Africa further while the unemployment rate is expected to rise.

The secretariat called on the Reserve Bank to play a more “developmental role” to help turn around the economy.

It also decided to establish an “Alliance Economic Task Force” that would make proposals on tackling the economic impact of COVID-19.

ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte will chair the Task Force, which will also include the chairperson of ANC’s economic transformation sub-committee, Enoch Godongwana, and SACP Second Deputy General Secretary Chris Matlhako.

Mboweni has not immediately reacted to the secretariat’s statement. A Business Day report earlier on Monday said National Treasury will take up a $1 billion loan from the New Development Bank to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

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