South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Monday 11 May

Back to school or not? It remains to be seen whether principals and school management teams will heed the call by Sadtu to stay at home today.

South Africa: Today’s latest news and headlines, Monday 11 May

Stay up to date with the latest news in South Africa; review the biggest headlines making waves across the country on Monday 11 May.

Today marks two months since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic with many European countries easing their lockdown restrictions, venturing into the “great” outdoors with caution.

However, after a week of Level 4 lockdown, South Africa has breached the dreaded 10 000-mark of confirmed COVID-19 infection on Sunday.

Today’s latest news in South Africa, Monday 11 May

Latest COVID-19 update

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa has topped 10 000, including 194 fatalities, Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize announced on Sunday evening.

The death toll of 194 is an increase of eight on the previous day’s figure. Among those infected, 4 173 (or 42%) are considered to have recovered from the virus. 

“As of today, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa is 10 015,” the minister said in his daily update, expressing concern at the Western Cape and Eastern Cape combined comprising 84% of the total new cases.

The Eastern Cape’s trajectory could soon see it overtake KwaZulu-Natal as the province with the third-largest number of infections, behind the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Currently, South Africa is the worst-hit country in sub-Saharan Africa with 5 168 infections and 98 deaths in the Western Cape, which is the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

The release of the latest figures comes amid reports that the government has admitted to holding back information from the public on the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it is doing so to avoid panic.

You can view the latest provincial breakdown here.

Provincial education departments questions readiness

School management teams (SMT) are expected to report for duty at schools across the country on Monday 11 May to prepare for the proposed return of grade 7 and 12 pupils on 1 June.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has urged its members not to report for duty, fearing that the Department of Basic Education has not taken all the necessary precautions and preparations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This was echoed by the Limpopo and Western Cape education departments, urging principals and school management teams not to report for duty.

According to Limpopo Education Department spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene they are still awaiting the delivery of school readiness materials, such as sanitisers, masks, visors, detergents and infrared thermometers.

The Basic Education Department said it had been made aware that not all provinces were ready to return on Monday.

Apply via e-mail for R350-per-month unemployment grant

The regulations about the temporary COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant have been gazetted on Saturday 9 May with some six million people expected to qualify for the grant.

The e-mail application channel for the temporary R350-per-month unemployment grant is officially open as from Monday 11 May.

According to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), applications will also be received via WhatsApp and SMS, and field workers will help those without access to technology. 

Read here to see who can apply.

Lindiwe Sisulu given 24-hour deadline

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has given Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu a day to respond to claims about irregularities regarding deals entered into by her department and contractors.

Sisulu is accused of overseeing the employment of 19 staffers in the National Rapid Response Task Team (NRRTT), seven of which were apparently hired without submitting resumes. This is said to have been an attempt at aiding her own presidential ambitions by gathering a “political war room” at taxpayers expense.

The DA has urged her to clarify the current status of the employment contracts of these members. The clock is ticking…

Safa appoints new acting CEO

The South African Football Association (Safa) have appointed Advocate Tebogo Motlanthe as acting chief executive officer replacing the outgoing Gay Mokoena.

Motlanthe takes up the position with immediate effect following the resignation of Mokoena in April.

Mokoena stepped down after he was placed on suspension by the Safa executive. He has delivered some scathing criticism of the footballing authority, accusing president Danny Jordaan of the abuse of power.

Despite his resignation as CEO, Mokoena remains a member of the executive and has challenged his suspension from the position of Safa vice-president.

Latest weather forecast, Monday 11 May

Take a look at weather forecasts for all nine provinces here.

Live traffic updates for Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban

Stay one step ahead of the traffic by viewing our live traffic updates here.

Horoscope today

Free daily horoscope, celeb gossip and lucky numbers for Monday 11 May.

Source : The South African More   

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Coronavirus or not, African migrants push on toward Europe

Coronavirus-induced lockdowns have slowed down the rate of migration.

Coronavirus or not, African migrants push on toward Europe

Many Africans are managing to evade coronavirus lockdown barriers in Niger, the Sahel’s migrant crossroads, as they press on with their perilous desert trek to the Mediterranean Sea and ultimately Europe.

The migrant flow has slowed down but not dried up despite tight checks in the capital Niamey, and an increase of desert security patrols that have detained hundreds of people as desperate as ever to reach Europe, officials and former smugglers said.

“Gambians, Senegalese, Malians, they are all determined to head there,” said Alassane Mamane, a retired civil servent who lives in Agadez, a desert crossroads and departure point for many migrants heading to Libya on the Mediterranean.

“One migrant said to me: ‘I would rather die from coronavirus than live in misery,” Mamane said.

Slipping through the holes of the net is becoming increasingly difficult.

Much harder for migrants

Since the anti-migrant plan set up in 2015 to reinforce patrols, security forces “have intensified further their surveillance to enforce border closing measures aimed at fighting the coronavirus,” a local official said.

Former people smuggler Idrissa Salifou confirmed it was now much harder for migrants.

“Before we could cross little by little but because of the anti-coronavirus measures (like border closures), the road is really blocked,” Salifou said.

“Soldiers comb the entire length of the border day and night. And on the other side, the Libyans have become very vigilant,” he said.

Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, has officially only recorded 781 coronavirus infections, with 42 people who have died from the COVID-19 disease.

Niger has already decreed a state of emergency, closed its borders with Libya and its other neighbours as well as cut off the capital Niamey from the rest of the country. 

‘Skirt checkpoints’

Libya, where migrants have suffered from the violence and lawlessness that followed Moamer Kadhafi’s overthrow in 2011, is also affected by the coronavirus.

Nonetheless, migrants are heading to the Niger border communities Dirkou and Madama in hopes of entering Libya but measures have been taken to block them, according to Bourkari Mamane, the mayor of Agadez, a large town in northern Niger.

But the flow is far from drying up.

Migrants “are trying in large numbers to enter Libya. They manage to skirt the checkpoints. The unlucky ones are picked up by military patrols,” Boubakar Jerome, the mayor of Dirkou, a city close to Libya, told AFP.

In less than two months, more than 300 migrants have been caught by Niger’s army along the border with Libya, the mayor said.

In the past week, 33 migrants were detained in the same area, the mayor said.

Bachir Amma, who heads an association of former people smugglers, said the migrants are as determined as ever.

“They don’t care about the coronavirus. In Agadez, some ‘ghettos’ have reopened and the migrants look for any chance to bound into the desert,” Amma said.

The “ghettos” are courtyards of buildings where migrants are housed.

Idrissa Salifou, the former people smuggler, said: “Recently around 60 vehicles transporting migrants managed to enter Libya, but they were quickly picked up by Libyan border guards who drove them to a city in that country.”

In Niger, migrants who are detained or rescued in the desert are placed in quarantine for 14 days at temporary sites in the north where the International Office of Migration (IOM) has welcomed 1,600 migrants stranded in the desert since borders were closed at the end of March.

New routes

For example, 764 migrants — including 391 from Niger, 140 from Mali and 101 from Guinea — have been put in quarantine in Assamaka, on the border with Algeria.

Among them are children, pregnant women and injured peope, the UN agency said.

“As soon as they emerge from isolation, some migrants try their luck again,” Boubakar Jerome said.

Last week, the UN agency launched an urgent appeal to donors for supplmentary aid of 10 million dollars to meet the needs of migrants.

It said it has rented extra facilities and reinforced prevention measures in six transit centres which are currently at the maximum cacapity.

In a bid to discourage smugglers, the government in Niamey adopted a law in 2015 to make migrant smuggling a crime, with sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

At the start of 2019, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou credited the anti-migrant plan, backed by the European Union, with causing the number of migrants passing through Niger to drop sharply from 100,000 to 150,000 a year before 2016 to 5,000 and 10,000 migrants per year today.

During a visit to Niamey the same year, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hailed an 80 percent reduction in 2018 of clandestine migrant arrivals on Italian shores.

More than the desert patrols, the game changer has been the decision to cut Niamey off from the rest of the country by banning anyone from entering or leaving without permission.

Many migrants from west Africa used to travel through Niamey before heading to Agadez or the desert gateways.

“With Niamey cut off, more and more migrants changed their itinerary: they now travel through Nigeria whose borders are more porous,”  said Bachir Amma, the former smuggler.

Boubakar Jerome, the mayor of Dirkou, agrees: “There exist one thousand and one routes: some of the lucky ones manage to weave their way into Libya.”

by Boureima Hama for Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Source : The South African More   

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