Category Archives: International News

COVID-19: SAA suspends all international and regional flights until 31 May

The South African Airways (SAA) has announced the suspension of all its international and regional flights until 31 May, 2020.

In a statement on Friday, SAA said the decision follows a travel ban instituted by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The decision means SAA will only render services domestically between Johannesburg and Cape Town,” SAA said.

High-risk destinations

The government has issued a notice, effective from Friday, prohibiting the embarkation and disembarkation of crew and passengers from SAA’s three international destinations designated as high-risk – New York, Washington DC, Frankfurt and London – except under certain circumstances.

SAA Acting CEO Zuks Ramasia said the decision was taken in support of the government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and in the best interests of SAA’s crew, passengers and the public.

“It is a responsibility of all of us, and not just government, to curb further transmission of the virus especially because we operate in the high-risk regions,” Ramasia added.

Regional destinations affected include Accra, Lusaka, Harare, Victoria Falls, Mauritius, Windhoek, Lagos and Entebbe.

Flights to Perth and Sao Paolo also suspended

SAA has also suspended flights to Perth and Sao Paolo because of “the significant reduction in demand for air travel as a result of various travel bans instituted worldwide.

SAA advised its customers to visit its website at http://www.flysaa.com or to contact their travel agents for further information.

The troubled airline is under business rescue and the suspensions are likely to add further uncertainty about its future.

In February, its business rescue practitioners, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, announced that it was ceasing operations on all domestic routes except Johannesburg-Cape Town.

However, this decision was resisted by the government. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said some domestic routes could be reinstated.

“We want absolute clarity on the routes, even some of the domestic routes that have currently been cancelled will be reinstated, perhaps in a different form,” he said.

Earlier in March, SAA also started a consultation process with labour unions in terms of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act regarding possible job cuts.

The business rescue practitioners have until the end of March to publish a business rescue plan.

COVID-19: Govt invokes emergency procurement to repair border fences with Zimbabwe

The government has invoked emergency procurement procedures to install and repair border fences east and west of South Africa’s Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe.

Patricia de Lille, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, made the announcement at a press briefing on Thursday in Pretoria.

She said the decision is part of government’s efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus, adding, “This is to ensure that no undocumented or infected persons cross into the country and vice-versa.”

40km in one month

De Lille said a multi-departmental team made site inspections on Tuesday this week and decided that 1.8m-high fences have to be erected or repaired for 40km on either side of the border post.

She added that the project, which will cost approximately R37.2 million, will commence today (Thursday) and will be completed within one month.

As of Wednesday, South Africa had a total of 116 confirmed cases. The government has implemented a raft of measures to contain the spread of the virus, including travel bans as well as closures of 37 land and sea ports of entry.

The Beitbridge border post, the only one with Zimbabwe and one of the busiest in the country, is however not affected by the closures.

State-owned properties as quarantine sites

De Lille also announced that the government has identified 37 state-owned properties in all 44 districts and eight metros that could be used as quarantine sites.

“Some of these sites will be available to people living in informal settlements where there are no such facilities available,” she added.

The Minister said the Trompsburg and Ladybrand hospitals in the Free State could be used as quarantine sites.

In KwaZulu-Natal, properties in Durban North, Pietermaritzburg, Richards Bay and Port Shepstone have also been identified.

The Limpopo and North West provincial governments have identified four and 130+ sites respectively, according to de Lille.

She added, “We have engaged the construction, property and built environment industries on the interventions they are implementing to boost hygiene measures, keep the industry safe and keep business going as far as possible.”

British actor Idris Elba says he has tested positive for coronavirus

Popular British actor Idris Elba has announced that he has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Elba made the announcement on Twitter on Monday night, saying he got the results on Monday morning but felt okay.

He wrote, “I feel ok, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus. Stay home people and be pragmatic. I will keep you updated on how I’m doing. No panic.”

Got exposed to positive person

The Fast and Furious star accompanied his tweet with a video of himself and his wife Sabrina Dhowre.

In the video, he reiterated that he and Sabrina were doing okay, but said Sabrina hadn’t been tested yet.

Elba added, “I got tested because I realised I got exposed to someone who had also tested positive. I found out last Friday that they had tested positive.

“I quarantined myself and got tested immediately and got the results back today. Look, this is serious. Now is the time to really think about social distancing [and] washing your hands.”

‘Transparency the best thing’

Elba encouraged his fans to be vigilant because infected people may not display symptoms but could easily spread the virus.

“Transparency is probably the best thing for this right now. If you’re feeling ill or you feel like you should be tested or you’ve been exposed, then do something about it,” he said.

Elba’s tweet went viral, racking up more than 335,000 likes and 110,000 retweets in just over an hour. His video was also viewed more than 6.3 million times within the same time period.

The United Kingdom (UK) has been hit hard by the virus with more than 1,500 confirmed cases and 55 deaths so far.

Globally, more than 169,000 cases have been confirmed and the pandemic has claimed over 7,000 lives so far.

In South Africa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed a total of 62 cases during a press briefing on Monday.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a raft of extraordinary measures to curb the spread of the virus, including travel bans to several European countries and the United States.

Brazil’s President Bolsonaro ‘tests positive for coronavirus’ days after meeting Trump

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a Fox News report.

The report quoted Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo on Friday saying further tests are being conducted to confirm the diagnosis.

A major local newspaper, Jornal O Dia, also reported the positive diagnosis, according the The Guardian Latin America reporter Tom Phillips.

Meeting with Trump

The news comes just days after Bolsonaro and several of his aides met US President Donald Trump at the Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida last weekend.

During the trip, the far right Trump ally tried to downplay media coverage of the pandemic, calling it a “fantasy.”

He said, “During the past year, obviously, we have had moments of crisis. A lot of that is fantasy. And coronavirus, which is not [what] all the mainstream media makes it out to be.”

Bolsonaro was tested soon after one of his aides, who was also on the Florida trip, tested positive on Wednesday. He was identified as Fabio Wajngarten, a communications secretary.

Highest ranking political leader to test positive

The 64-year-old Bolsonaro becomes the highest ranking political leader in the world to test positive for COVID-19 since it first broke out in China in December last year.

A White House spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said earlier this week that Trump had no plans of being tested.

“Both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time,” Grisham said.

According to NBC News, there have been around 1,600 confirmed or presumptive coronavirus cases and 41 deaths so far in the US.

In South Africa, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has confirmed 24 cases so far, adding that more cases may be confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the National Health Laboratory Service.

122 South Africans returning from Wuhan, China, are also expected back in the country today (Friday.) They will be quarantined at the Ranch Resort in Polokwane, Limpopo, for 14-21 days.

English football, cricket IPL postponed over coronavirus fears

England’s Football Association (FA) has announced the suspension of all professional games in England until 3 April “at the earliest” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Friday, the FA said the decision was taken “due to the increasing numbers of clubs taking steps to isolate their players and staff because of the COVID-19 virus.”

The decision, which will nevertheless be under “constant review,” affects the Premier League, English Football League, FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship, Emirates FA Cup, and the Women’s FA Cup.

BCCI postpones IPL

According to The Sun, coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom have exceeded 600, with 10 people losing their lives.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has also postponed the start of the popular Indian Premier League (IPL) from 29 March to 15 April “as a precautionary measure.”

In a statement on Friday, it said, “The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience.”

India has had 75 confirmed cases so far, with one person succumbing to the virus on Thursday.

Australia women’s ODI/T20I tour of SA postponed

On Thursday, Cricket Australia also announced the postponement of Australia women’s three-match One-Day International and three-match Twenty20 International tour of South Africa until further notice.

The matches had been scheduled for 22 March until 4 April. Cricket Australia said it would continue to monitor the situation before making a further decision.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced earlier on Friday that South Africa now has a total of 24 confirmed cases.

At a press briefing in Polokwane, Mkhize said eight new cases have been confirmed – four in Gauteng and two each in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.

He added that there could be more positive cases because the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) and National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) are verifying more test results.

Mkhize was speaking outside the Ranch Resort, where 122 South Africans being repatriated from Wuhan in China will be quarantined for 14-21 days. They are scheduled to arrive today (Friday).

Cabinet is set to hold a special meeting on Sunday to discuss possible travel bans and other measures. So far, all confirmed cases have involved people who had travelled abroad.

All the feels: ‘Fanned out’ Gabrielle Union touts Pearl Thusi as her #WCW

A totally “fanned out” Gabrielle Union has named none other than South Africa’s very own superstar actress Pearl Thusi as her “Woman crush Wednesday.”

The legendary American actress shared a heartfelt tribute to Thusi on Instagram on Wednesday, referring to her as “talented and captivating.”

She wrote, “I met Pearl randomly in a bar in Barcelona while watching the World Cup, right after watching her Netflix movie, Catching Feelings… and I completely fanned out!”

‘Superstar for all the right reasons’

Union, who was until recently an America’s Got Talent judge, praised Thusi as a “superstar for all the right reasons” as well as an entrepreneur, friend, mother, and philanthropist.

She cited Thusi’s successes, including having her own hair line called Black Pearl Hair and her work on HIV and gender-based violence issues.

View this post on Instagram

Today’s #WCW is the talented and captivating Pearl Thusi (@pearlthusi). I met Pearl randomly in a bar in Barcelona while watching the World Cup, right after watching her Netflix movie, Catching Feelings… and I completely fanned out! She is the kind of woman that's a superstar for all the right reasons. She is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, friend, mother and more. She has her own hair care line called Black Pearl Hair… and launched the first ever MAC Collaboration in Africa EVER. Her project Queen Sono is Netflix’s first African original… before her they had never done anything script to screen on the continent! And her movie Catch Feelings was their first African movie ever licensed. Her passion for education, women, kids, and fighting HIV has lead her to some incredible work…. helping Global Citizen, many other organizations, and starting her own, Black halo, to focus on helping rape victims. To continue her philanthropic efforts, she just started working with Nkosi’s Haven – a foundation run in  honor of Nkosi Johnson, the longest surviving child born with HIV at his time of passing. There aren’t even enough characters available for me to describe everything this woman has done for the world and accomplished!  She’s the kind of woman to pop up at my birthday dinner at my favorite Mexican spot when I thought she was out of the country. I'm so inspired by all the work she does. From her immense talent to her groundbreaking roles to her hairline to raising her 2 daughters. Just, WOW. Let us lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there.

A post shared by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on

Union added, “Her project Queen Sono is Netflix’s first African original; before her they had never done anything script to screen on the continent! And her movie Catch Feelings was their first African movie ever licensed.”

Queen Sono, in which Thusi stars as a spy caught in a web of business and political intrigues, is currently getting rave reviews since it began showing on Netflix at the end of February.

Pearl Thusi, South Africans react

Union went on to say, “There aren’t even enough characters available for me to describe everything this woman has done for the world and accomplished! 

“I’m so inspired by all the work she does. From her immense talent to her groundbreaking roles to her hairline to raising her two daughters. Just, WOW. Let us lift her up in the light of goodness and hold her there.”

Pearl Thusi was among the first to react to Union’s glowing tribute. Commenting on the Instagram post, she simply said, “Gab… thank you… I really don’t know what else to say. Thank you.”

South Africans on social media also couldn’t help but get all the feels from Union’s post and in no time, both she and Thusi were trending.

Twitter user @Telekoadam joked, “Let’s give Gabrielle Union an African name. She is one of us.” Another user immediately suggested the name “Gabisile.”

Others said the tribute was a case of queens recognising each other, while @robzinterris replied, “Thanks for the recognition Gabrielle… Our continent has so much beauty and talent.”

EFF slams Pompeo’s claim that land expropriation would be ‘disastrous’ for SA

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for saying land expropriation without compensation would be “disastrous” for South Africa’s economy.

Pompeo, who has been on a tour of some African countries, made the remarks on Wednesday in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

He said, “South Africa is debating an amendment to permit the expropriation of private property without compensation. That would be disastrous for that economy, and most importantly for the South African people.”

‘Imperialist logic’

He added that for African economies to succeed, they require “strong rule of law, respect for property rights, regulation that encourages investment.”

Pompeo compared land expropriation to the centralised planning policies that have failed in countries such as Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

However, in a statement on Thursday, the EFF said land expropriation seeks to “undo a fundamental sin against African people.”

It added, “Pompeo’s utterances are consistent with the imperialist logic that seeks to parent the world so as to maintain its firm grip as a superpower that holds policy direction for all nations subservient to it.”

‘South African affairs are for South Africans’

EFF accused the US government under President Donald Trump and Pompeo of “waging a war on African Americans and Mexicans” and “undermining the land rights and independence of Palestinians.”

The party said, “We are therefore not shocked that a Secretary of a destructive United States would be against calls for justice and restoration of the dignity of black South Africans.

“Pompeo needs to understand that we do not account to the United States and out policy directives are not going to fall into his capitalist logic. The domestic affairs of South Africa are for South Africans to resolve.”

The government has not yet reacted to Pompeo’s comments. However, South Africa and the US have previously differed over the matter.

In August 2018, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he had instructed his Secretary of State to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”

Addressing a government event in Ha-Matsila village in Limpopo shortly afterwards, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “I don’t know what Donald Trump has to do with South African land because he has never been here and he must keep his America. We will keep our South Africa; that is what he must do. South Africa is our land.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: Land expropriation would be ‘disastrous’ for SA

The United States (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has voiced his country’s opposition to South Africa’s proposed land expropriation without compensation policy, according to a Bloomberg report.

Speaking to reporters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday, Pompeo said the planned policy would be “disastrous” for South Africa’s economy.

He said, “South Africa is debating an amendment to permit the expropriation of private property without compensation. That would be disastrous for that economy, and most importantly for the South African people.”

‘Respect for property rights’

He said for African economies to succeed, they require “strong rule of law, respect for property rights, regulation that encourages investment.”

Pompeo said land expropriation is similar to the centralised planning policies that have failed in countries such as Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

The African National Congress (ANC) adopted the policy at its 54th national conference held at the Nasrec Expo in Johannesburg in 2017.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has also strongly pushed for it. Parliament recently extended the deadline for written submissions to the land expropriation bill to 29 February.

SA-US row

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also ANC President, has often said the bill will outline the circumstances under which land expropriation without compensation would be permissible.

The South African government has not yet reacted to Pompeo’s comments. However, the two countries have previously differed over the matter.

In August 2018, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he had instructed his Secretary of State to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”

In a subsequent trip to the US in September 2018, Ramaphosa told Bloomberg TV news channel that Trump had been “clearly misinformed.”

He said, “There are no killings of farmers or white farmers in South Africa. There’s no land grab in South Africa. We are involved in a process of discussing land reform.”

Addressing a government event in Ha-Matsila village in Limpopo in August 2018, Ramaphosa also said Trump should stay out of South Africa’s affairs.

According to an SABC News report, he said, “I don’t know what Donald Trump has to do with South African land because he has never been here and he must keep his America. We will keep our South Africa; that is what he must do. South Africa is our land.”

SA-born Elon Musk adds R33.8b to his net worth in just 60 minutes

South African-born American entrepreneur Elon Musk grew richer by a staggering $2.3 billion (roughly R33.8 billion) in just 60 minutes on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old Musk is the founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Tesla Motors and holds about a fifth of its stock.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Tesla’s stock grew in value by 12% to $649 (around R9,500) at 17h16 New York time on Wednesday.

Elon Musk’s net worth

This share price surge boosted Elon Musk’s net worth to around $36 billion (around R529 billion).

The rest of his wealth comes from his majority ownership of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which accounts for $14.6 billion (R214.7 billion) of his net worth.

Tesla’s share price soared on account of stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and anticipated release of the new Model Y crossover SUV.

Musk’s mercurial leadership of the electric car-making company has seen its market value increase to more than $100 billion currently.

Elon Musk and South Africa

Elon Musk’s birthplace was in Pretoria in 1971. He developed an interest in computers at the age of 10, around the same time his parents divorced.

A self-taught programmer, he sold his first software at the age of 12. He moved with his mother Maye Musk to Canada in 1989 when he was 17 and obtained Canadian citizenship soon thereafter.

Musk obtained his university education at Queen’s University in Canada and the University of Pennsylvania, which he joined in 1992 to study business and physics.

Although he enrolled for a PhD at Stanford University, he dropped out and started his first company, Zip2 Corporation, to cash in on the internet boom in 1995. He became a US citizen in 2002.

Musk’s father, Errol Musk, is a successful engineer and entrepreneur based in South Africa. However, they reportedly do not get along because of family issues.

In a Twitter exchange in September last year, Musk said he “would love to” import Tesla cars to South Africa “but import duties are extremely high, even for electric vehicles.”

China converts empty building into 1,000-bed coronavirus hospital in 2 days

The Huanggang government in China has officially opened a 1,000-bed hospital after just two days of construction to treat patients of the coronavirus outbreak.

More than 500 construction workers took part in the emergency project and the Dabie Mountain Regional Medical Centre began admitting patients on Tuesday, according to metro.co.uk.

The hospital was meant to open in May this year. However, the outbreak of the virus was considered an emergency.

4 hospitals at record speed

The hospital is located near Wuhan, where the virus was first detected late last year, and is fully supplied with water, electricity and internet.

The Dabie Mountain Regional Medical Centre. Image credit: Huanggang Government

In Wuhan, the government is building another large hospital from scratch and has set itself a deadline of Monday next week to complete it.

It is building a total of four hospitals at record speeds in a bid to contain the outbreak. The hospitals are based on a model medical centre built in Beijing in 2003 in the wake of a SARS outbreak at the time.

Coronavirus has caused the deaths of 132 people in mainland China so far, with almost 6,000 people infected.

South Africans react

China’s swift interventions to contain the outbreak have impressed a number of South Africans on social media.

Commenting on the Dabie Mountain Regional Medical Centre’s construction, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Phumzile van Damme simply tweeted, “TWO. DAYS.”

Her followers were similarly impressed. @PaddyBush replied, “Two days. To convert a building into a hospital. Still VERY impressive.

“We would take 6 months plus a 3 month overrun, plus it would be ten times the cost because everyone involved would be taking kickbacks from the construction company who won the contract to convert.”

Another commenter, Gideon van Zyl, cited an example of a hospital in Kempton Park which he said was decommissioned in 1998 but never rebuilt to date.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday that South Africa has put in place contingency measures in case there is a local outbreak.

He said, “South Africa has not reported or suspected cases to date. Research into the epidemiology of the virus or natural history of the virus is ongoing.”

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