Statement by the Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, on the Northern Cape Provincial Command Council, Virtual briefing

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Members of the Executive Council

Heads of Department

Ladies and gentlemen

The Provincial Command Council sat for its bi-weekly meeting recently and reflected on lockdown level 2 and our progress made in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The move from Alert level 3 to Alert level 2 of the National lockdown with effect from about mid-August 2020 has resulted in the relaxation of a number of restrictions on some of the socio-economic activities. We welcome this move as the further opening of the tourism and hospitality sector will enable job creation and growing the economy.

As Government we are continuously mindful of the ‘second wave’ of infections experienced by other countries and therefore we are still working tirelessly with our Districts and civil society to ensure that this does not happen. We can only achieve this with the cooperation of each and every citizen of this growing province. Regrettably we have observed with shock and disappointment the reckless behaviour of some of our citizens since the easing of the Lockdown regulations. This recklessness and stubborn ignorance goes against all the achievements we have recorded and I appeal to everyone to take responsibility for your own health and that of others. We can only overcome if we all work together and share and also buy into the efforts of containing the spread of the Virus.

It is noted that the number of people testing positive each day continues on an upward trajectory, averaging 150-250 new case each day. This is expected to continue until we reach the peak during September. The South African Covid-19 Modeling Consortium had previously projected that by the 6th of September The Province will have 11 929 cases - the actual total reported cases was 11 914 which shows a close correlation with the modeling. We are hopeful that once we reach the peak, the number of new positives will start to fall away until early December when we should have very few new positive cases each day.

During a pandemic of this type, the surge towards a peak and the falling off afterwards is inevitable. But the actual number of people who get infected each day is not inevitable and can be reduced. This remains in our hands and requires increasing vigilance in observing all health and safety protocols in terms of social distancing, wearing of face masks, and regular hand washing or sanitizing.

During the surge the Hospitals will limit all surgical and other admissions to urgent and emergency care and we therefore appeal to the public to assist us with this. We remain confident that we have enough bed capacity in the province for all patients who need to be admitted with COVID-19 complications.

As at 8th September the Province had a total of 12 222 cases, with a total recovery of 8 956 cases and 3 114 active cases. Regrettably 150 people have succumbed to the virus and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the bereaved.

By the 8th September a total number of 86 672 people had been tested and 2 977 526 screenings had been done, including repeat screenings, as we continue to wage war against this pandemic.

Government will continue to use screening not simply for screening but also to constantly educate our people about which symptoms to look for and where to seek medical assistance.

The Province notes that a total number of 454 Health Care workers have tested positive so far, of which 352 have recovered Unfortunately 9 of our Health Department personnel have lost their lives to the pandemic.

Of concern also is the number of about 542 infections amongst SAPS officials, with 217 recoveries and a total number of 9 deaths. We reserve our sincerest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and thank them for being at the frontline of the fight against Covid-19. These frontline members lost their lives whilst fighting an invisible enemy and deserve our respect and we regret the loss of life.

As we continue to wage war against this pandemic, we will continue to provide our frontline workers with key Personal Protective Equipment. Over the past few months, contributions from our social partners made the provision of this much-needed equipment possible. One such contribution was through the shared value approach by the Mines, where mines in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District and the SIOC-cdt joined to assist the Provincial Government with a contribution of R100 million in kind towards the fight in Covid-19. It should be noted that this contribution was non-financial and was made in the form of Personal Protective Equipment, Medical equipment and water infrastructure that will be utilized in the healthcare facilities in the JTG District. We are very grateful for this donation that goes a long way in our fight against the pandemic. We can give the reassurance that we have enough PPE in all our healthcare facilities.

I am pleased to announce that we have welcomed back all the grades to our schools in August and I can report that as a Provincial Government supported by the Provincial Command Council we are pleased with the manner in which our education system handled the return of all grades to school. The members of the Provincial Command Council conducted visits to several schools across the Province to ensure that all health and hygiene protocols are in place and that learning and teaching can take place in a safe environment. The Department of Education has ensured that all schools were supplied with the appropriate PPE and Hygiene packs.

The Department appointed 645 Cleaners in substantive vacant posts in schools. A total of 2,100 Screeners were appointed in schools through the EPWP Incentive Grant to ensure that all learners, educators and support staff are screened daily. All schools were disinfected prior to the re-opening of schools and all School Management Teams, educators and learners were taken through COVID-19 orientation processes. All Cleaners and Screeners were trained on Covid-19 protocols with the assistance of the Department of Health.

As an added precautionary measure we ensured that schools are linked to the nearest clinic to respond to emergencies in double time should such be required. The Department of Education also partnered with the Department of Social Development to extend the services of Social workers to schools to address the psychosocial challenges relating to Lockdown and COVID19. Schools implemented differentiated timetables to ensure reduced numbers of learners on the schools premises daily and have staggered the breaks to ensure social distancing is maintained at all times.

All schools were issued with the Standard Operating Procedures to address all COVID-19 related matters.  When schools report positive cases, the schools are properly decontaminated with disinfectant in line with the Standard Operating Procedures. Through the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), the Department of Education continues to provide daily nutritious meal to 267 427 learners. Worth noting is that this programme provided more then 70 000 learners with daily food packs during the lockdown. This goes a long way in improving and boosting the children’s immune system and affords them a greater chance of avoiding contracting COVID-19.

A partnership has been established comprising our Department of Education, the University of Stellenbosch and the Department of Science and Innovation, to provide laptops to 40 Grade 12 Top-Achieving Mathematics and Science learners and 40 tablets to Grade 11 Top-Achieving Mathematics and Science learners.

These devices will be loaded monthly with a 10gig of day-time data and a 20gig of night-time data in order for learners to access the virtual platforms of curriculum material. The University of Stellenbosch is also broadcasting real-time lessons to these devices and providing videos on all the content of Mathematics and Physical Sciences to these learners.

The Northern Cape Department of Education received a total of 2044 applications from educators with co-morbidities. To date 1110 applications were approved for educators to work from home. The profiles of these educators are spread across the curriculum and cover a wide range of subjects. The Department is taking into consideration the need to accommodate the teachers with co-morbidities in critical subjects and the fact that all grades have returned to schools resulting in a large shortfall of teachers. However, given the huge cost implications linked to substitute educators, the sector is exploring the idea of appointing Education Assistants to assist teachers who received approval to work from home. The Assistants will be paid a stipend not a full salary.

On the readiness of Early Childhood Centres I can report that an assessment has been conducted to determine the state of readiness of each ECD based on the Guidelines issued by the Minister.  R 4, 4 million has been set aside for the procurement of PPEs for ECDs. This process is currently underway and will be closely monitored to ensure transparency and compliance. All private funded ECDs are currently open accounting for +/- 5 000 children. The Department is currently working with the Government-funded ECDs in terms of readiness to open and once the procurement process has been finalized they will be to about 15 000 children.

In terms of Food Security, the Department of Social Development has 143 Feeding Scheme Projects, to date 81 facilities have been approved for funding with the remaining 62 to be approved in the next two weeks based on readiness assessments currently being conducted by the Department in partnership with local municipalities. All 143 of these projects will be trained during next week in terms of safety protocols. Tender issued for PPEs have been published and we are inviting people to apply for them. We are therefore anticipating opening by end of October. An amount of R20 million has been set aside for food provision in areas where the Department currently has no footprint in terms of food provision.

Now that we have moved to lockdown Level 2, the South African Police Service will continue to ensure that the Disaster Regulations are adhered to, particularly compliance by liquor traders as it relates to trading hours and also compliance with the curfew.

Zero tolerance has been adopted in the province as part of fighting gender based violence and all efforts will be employed to ensure that our women and children are safe. Although we have noticed a decrease in Gender Based Violence from 2019 to 2020 as reported in our Crime Statistics, Gender Based Violence cannot be tolerated and we call on our communities to assist us in this fight by speaking out against the occurrence of such cases.

We have noted recent reports in the media and outcries from the public alleging fraud and corruption in the procurement process of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). To address these allegations of corruption in the procurement of all COVID-19 material, we have taken the initiative to publish a comprehensive list of all companies awarded contract to supply PPEs since the outbreak. We have however gone a step further and set up a committee at Treasury to speed up the work of the internal audit around these procurements, look at matters such as verification of the status of service providers, pricing and to look at remedial action on issues raised by the Auditor General. This is to ensure that there is complete transparency around this process and as pointed out before; where we pick up discrepancies or elements of misconduct or criminality, such information will be referred to law enforcement agencies and state money will be recovered from those individuals. This committee is meeting this afternoon to develop their operational and implementation plans. It is anticipated that this process will commence this coming Monday and conclude its work in a month’s time.

We have noted in the AG’s report that the prices were escalated by 12% more than what was prescribed. According to National Treasury’s norm a variance of 10% based on locality is allowed. This then means that our variance is only 2% above, which is the least as compared to other provinces.

Table (See addendum)

In a matter totally unrelated to Covid-19 procurement but I thought that I should also reflect on as per my commitment of total transparency; is the subject of alleged irregular payments by the Head of Department of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture for the cancelled Human Rights day event. When the matter was raised by NEHAWU last week in a national strike, I immediately sort a report to familiarize myself with the details around the allegation. This year would have seen us host the National Human Rights day event in Colesberg. As per the norm with these events companies were invited to submit quotations for the successful rollout of the event. Only one company submitted a quotation for the event and an order was issued based on the value of R 4 million that was committed by the National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture with the Province having to cover an amount of R 265 650-00 for the payment of volunteers that were responsible for mobilizing. Covid-19 then struck and on the 13th March the service provider was requested to halt all procurement, whilst awaiting the announcement that was made by the President on the 15th March that specifically National Human Rights Day had to be cancelled to avoid an outbreak of Covid-19, given the large crowds that would be present at the event.

The service providers then indicated expenses incurred on their part, given that work had already unfolded in preparation for the event and this case was presented to National DSAC. After thorough assessment it was then agreed that the volunteers would be paid, who still needed to do work to inform members of the public of the cancelled event. Two payments were thus made to the events company i.e R 265 650-00 on the 23rd March 2020 and an amount of R 1, 065 million on the 12th May 2020 based on bank statements provided by the service provider. Further investigations will be made in this regard to ensure that money paid was for actual expenses.

I conclude with the commitment that the Provincial Command Council remains as resolute as ever to doubling our efforts in ensuring that we contain infections and save lives. We once more call on residents to note that although lockdown levels are relaxed, the virus is still part of us and very alive and people should continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing and continue to wash hands with water and soap or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer. It becomes increasingly important for citizens to play their part to protect themselves and others against Coronavirus


Issued by the Provincial Command Council

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