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Government: Could introduce these new drinking laws

Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health has agreed to formulate an ‘action plan’ around the issue of alcohol abuse in South Africa, Business Tech reported.

This follows a briefing from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) which found that the reintroduction of the sale of alcohol has led to a significant increase in trauma cases at the country’s hospitals.

Committee chairperson Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said that while relatively few South Africans consume alcohol, many of those who do, consume alcohol excessively.

He said that the committee is of the view that South Africa cannot continue to debate the gross domestic product (GDP) benefits of alcohol sales and not talk about ‘the costs of cleaning up’ after alcohol has been abused.

Hospital admissions, intensive care usage, gender-based violence and death all escalate as a result of excessive alcohol consumption, he said.

The committee has agreed to meet next week to formulate an action plan on the basis of the report.”

“This is in line with a letter sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly by a group of academics, researchers and policy specialists offering advice on steps to curb the abuse of alcohol in South Africa. The letter has since been referred to the committee for consideration.”

Policy changes

While the SAMRC’s presentation primarily focused on the impact of the coronavirus, an accompanying question paper developed by parliament’s internal research unit outlined some of the draft regulations which lawmakers should consider.

“South Africa needs to control alcohol in order to save lives, improve health, and strengthen the economy. This is possible given the listed three draft Bills that require deliberation in order to increase regulation,” the researchers said.

The three draft bills which have previously been mooted include:

  1. The Draft Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill of 2013;
  2. The Draft Traffic Amendment Bill of 2015;
  3. TheDraft Liquor Amendment Bill of 2017.

The Draft Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill primarily deals with advertising, including where alcohol may be sold, what times alcohol advertisements may be shown on TV, and who alcohol may be sold to.

The Draft Liquor Amendment Bill proposes much more wide-reaching changes including:

  1. Increasing the drinking age to 21 years;
  2. The introduction of a 100-metre radius limitation of trade around educational and religious institutions;
  3. Banning of any alcohol sales and advertising on social and small media;
  4. The introduction of new liability clause for alcohol-sellers.

Drunk-driving

The Traffic Amendment Bill has already been approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa and is set to be introduced before the end of 2020.

Alongside a number of other traffic-related offences, it will create a zero-tolerance approach to drunk driving.

It introduces a total prohibition for the use and consumption of alcohol by all motor vehicle operators on South Africa’s public roads.

The National Road Traffic Act (NRA) currently enables those who have consumed alcohol to get behind the wheel provided they are under the blood alcohol limit.

These laws differentiate between normal drivers and professional drivers (those drivers who hold professional driving permits).

The new laws would make this limit zero in both cases.

 

News: Bread in SA may now stay fresher for longer .

After many years of lobbying, government has finally approved sorbic acid as an ingredient in local bread, Business Insider reported.

One of the most commonly used food preservatives in the world, it should keep local bread fresher for longer.

While the department of health approved the use of sorbic acid in all types of bread in February, it was finally gazetted last month:

New regulations to allow sorbic acid for use in all bread was gazetted last month by the department of health.

The use of sorbic acid should extend bread’s shelf life in South Africa by two to three days, says Geoff Penny, executive director of the South African Chamber of Baking, which represents the large bread producers.

Currently, a typical loaf of bread in South Africa usually lasts about five days. Sorbic acid should stretch it to more than a week.

Penny says the ingredient will have no impact on the taste, and does not have any side-effects.

It is, however, more expensive than the standard SA bread preservative, calcium propionate, and will probably add a couple of cents to the price of a loaf, says Penny. The bread producers may decide to absorb that cost.

A natural occurring compound, sorbic acid was isolated in 1859 in Germany, after a scientist distilled rowanberries. It was found to be highly effective at inhibiting the growth of mould and was then used to preserve white wines and meat.

A decade ago, the European Union and the UN’s food standards authority also approved it for use in bread.

It is not clear why South Africa’s department of health did not approve sorbic acid earlier, given that it’s already a standard ingredient elsewhere in the world, says Penny.

 It is also already allowed in other goods, including other baked products, in South Africa.

But the announcement does come at a good time: as bread will last longer, it should help to cut down shop visits during the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Government: Engaging stakeholders on reopening of schools

President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured South Africans that saving lives during this pandemic is important as government is set to engage stakeholders in the education sector on the reopening schools.

Interacting with communities across the nation through a virtual Presidential Imbizo on Coronavirus on Wednesday, the President said government will in the next few days engage parents, student organisations, unions as well as other organisations, on the matter of reopening schools.

“Once this had been done, we are going to assess what we have heard and discuss it with the medical advisory committee… in the light of what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. I think we will come to a positive and inclusive decision,” the President said.

The WHO recently warned against the reopening of schools while local transmissions of the Coronavirus are on the rise.

The President said the decision to open schools was an inclusive decision even though some might not agree with it.

President said every life is important.

“We don’t focus on how many people should die first before we take a particular action. We are about saving lives and we are also about preserving livelihoods. Our strategy is not based on the number of lives of people who must die.”

“We are going to sit back and listen carefully to all the key role-players about the re-opening of schools. Losing an academic year cannot be weighed up against the lives of the people we must lose. If we have to get to a point of closing schools, that will be the decision,” President Ramaphosa said.

Analysts: Plans to introduce NHI in South Africa will not work

The Institute for Race Relations (IRR) has criticised president Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent calls to introduce universal healthcare coverage and a National Health Insurance (NHI) system in South Africa, Business Tech reported.

Ramaphosa has said that the global Covid-19 pandemic crisis has starkly highlighted the value of universal health coverage in responding to health emergencies, and the need for robust health systems to save lives.

“Let us lay the foundation for National Health Insurance so that all people have access to the quality health care they need regardless of their ability to pay,” he said in a national address on Sunday (12 July).

However, the IRR said that the claim of  ‘quality healthcare’ for all is deceiving when the same government is responsible for failures in the existing public health system.

“To begin with, South Africa already has an extensive public health system charged with delivering quality healthcare, particularly to the vulnerable and the poor, but it is failing, and costing lives,” it said.

“Instances of grievous mismanagement, and of patients or loved ones enduring what can only be described as inhumane treatment, are commonplace. These are symptoms of chronic government failure.”

The IRR said that the government should instead focus on solutions that will guarantee quality healthcare in the public sector, rather than merely ‘importing into NHI’ everything that is wrong with the system it mismanages today.

“The NHI is not a cure-all  in fact, it is likely to be worse than the disease it is trying to cure: too many South Africans not having access to quality healthcare,” said the IRR’s deputy head of Policy Research Hermann Pretorius.

“If government-run healthcare has shown South Africans one thing, it is that government cannot successfully run healthcare.”

No evidence that the NHI will be different

This view was echoed by analysts in an interview with The Citizen.

Unisa professor and political analyst Lesiba Teffo said that the planned healthcare insurance will likely fail, judging from how state-owned enterprises performed.

If you want to add onto that another state-owned enterprise, one cannot say the government can do better. Some of the reasons for the collapse of the healthcare system is that it is not well managed,” he said.

A lack of engagement between provincial health departments, and private doctors, prevented a working partnership between the public and private sector, said the South African Medical Association.

The collapse is also due to inefficient structures within the system, and poor leadership in hospital management, which affected the current handling of the pandemic.

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

GOVERNMENT: Cybercrimes Bill and rules around the messages you can send.

The National Council of Provinces approved a bill at its sitting on Wednesday (1 July) most notably the Cybercrimes Bill.

Originally introduced in 2017, the Cybercrimes Bill focuses on criminalising the theft and interference of data and bringing South Africa’s cyber security laws in line with the rest of the world.

The objectives of the bill are among others to:

  • Create offences and impose penalties which have a bearing on cyber crime;
  • To criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful and;
  • To provide for interim protection orders;
  • To further regulate jurisdiction in cyber crime.
  • The bill further aims to regulate the powers to investigate cyber crimes;
  • to further regulate aspects relating to mutual assistance in respect of the investigation of cyber crimes and;
  • to provide for the establishment of a 24/7 point of contact.

“The bill also impose obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cyber crimes. It also provides that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cyber security.”

Some of the online messages which are covered under the bill include:

  • A message which incites damage to property or violence;
  • A message which threatens persons with damage to property or violence;
  • A message which unlawfully contains an intimate image.

 

Link to the Cybercrimes Bill

https://pmg.org.za/bill/684/

 

Source: BusinessTech

Photo Credit: Unsplash

 

GOVERNMENT: SASSA sends lifeline to rejected COVID-19 grant applicants

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has given a lifeline to all rejected applicants of the R350 Covid-19 special grant.

“In early June, close to 50% of processed applications did not qualify in terms of the criteria. Over 70% of those that did not qualify were either receiving or qualifying for UIF benefits, according to the database that Sassa was using then to sift through the applications.

“Subsequently, Sassa took a decision to request an updated database to reconsider the declined UIF cases, instead of advising the aggrieved applicants to follow the appeals route,” said Letsatsi.

Letsatsi said it has also emerged that 85% of the UIF cases, which were previously deemed not to qualify, actually do qualify.

More than 2.5 million applicants have already been paid so far from over 3.2 million who applied for the Covid-19 grant.

Sassa CEO Totsie Memela said: “Updating the UIF database has brought such a relief to us and the affected beneficiaries. The numbers will rise daily until we have paid all deserving individuals who were previously declined.”

 

Photo Credit: SASSA

COVID-19: Gauteng approves 4.9% hospital tariff increase.

The Gauteng provincial legislature’s committee on scrutiny of subordinate legislation has approved regulations which gives effect to the annual adjustment fee of 4.9% for hospital tariffs, according to News24.

The adjusted fee is on services payable by patients at provincial hospitals, mortuaries and for ambulance services, according to a statement issued on behalf of the chairperson of the committee Dulton Adams.

The amended regulations, which were presented by the Gauteng Department of Health will come into effect from 1 July.

“In approving these adjustments, the committee took into consideration the current unfavourable economic environment brought about by Covid-19 and its impact on ordinary citizens as well as the need for the provincial government to generate revenue in order to strengthen its capacity to provide much needed healthcare services,” Adams said.

He said the committee noted that the fee adjustments were necessary to ensure public hospitals had the necessary resources to function effectively.

However, not all patients would be subjected to paying for these services, he said.

Patients exempt from paying for healthcare services include:

  1. Children under six
  2. Pregnant women – social pensioners
  3. Any persons receiving social grants
  4. Formally unemployed people

“In terms of the approved regulations, all foreign nationals are classified as fully paying patients except for refugees with valid documents.”

Source: News24

Photo Credit: Unsplash

GOVERNMENT NEWS: Government is tracking you via your mobile phone.

The Department of Health is using mobile technology as a civilian tracking system aimed at strengthening government’s COVID-19 database according to The South African.

GOVERNMENT TRACKING MOBILE PHONES

South African citizens concerned about government knowing their every move via mobile tracking applications are not crazed conspiracy theorists.

According to The South African, the Department of Health has been given the go ahead to intensify its technological toolbox in an attempt to populate the national database and act swiftly on contact tracing concerns.

While the controversial mobile tracking strategy has raised several red flags surrounding the protection of privacy and personal information, government argues that stringent regulations, coupled with a voluntary opt-in directive,  have been implemented to safeguard citizens while still assisting the state in its battle against the coronavirus.

Amendments to the law state:

“The National Department of Health may develop and implement electronic systems or applications to be used on mobile devices or computers in order to collect, on a voluntary basis, information from members of the public for inclusion in the COVID-19 Database.”

Further regulations governing the gathering of information by government bodies stress the importance of transparency and consent, noting the following seven terms and conditions:

“The information concerned is only obtained from users of mobile devices and computers on a voluntary and opt -in basis; in order to obtain the necessary consent from the user of the mobile device or computer, the terms and conditions of the electronic system or application must explain and request the user’s express consent;

Terms and Conditions

  • which information will be collected and stored via the electronic system or application
  • the means by which the information will be collected and stored
  • the purposes for which any information will be collected and used
  • the entities or persons to which that information will be transmitted, and under what conditions
  • whether the information will be kept on the user’s mobile device or a centralised server
  • the period for which the information will be retained
  • the notice that will be given to users when the information has been destroyed

Additionally, the law allows for government to receive personal information from private entities, including mobile service providers and financial institutions.

MOBILE APPS AND SECURITY CONCERNS

While government has listed a host of checks and balances, primarily associated with the responsibilities of the Director -General of Health, some South Africans may voluntarily opt-in to the tracing programme by simply accessing an update delivered by government to the mobile device.

Weary citizens claim that government’s terms and conditions have been woven into a web of fine print which is not easily identifiable when attempting to access information from the Department of Health.

South Africans complain that they have ‘unknowingly’ opted-in to the programme and have found ‘hidden’ tracing applications which operate as a background process.

 

Source: The South African

Photo Credit: Wired

(RP)

 

BREAKING: Reduced jail time being contemplated by Government

 

According to BusinessTech, the Government is carefully examining the criminal justice system in relation to incarceration for low-risk crimes so that it does not become the only option for such crimes.

“We will be reviewing some of our policies and we are looking forward to thoughtful contributions, which will emanate from public debates through the legislative process so that together, we can address overcrowding in correctional centres,” the Minister said.

He said the rate of imprisonment for awaiting trial offenders is increasing at a rate which requires South Africa to urgently interrogate the linkages in the criminal justice system.

An analysis of the inmate population to date reveals that the bed space in correctional services currently sits at 118,572, whereas there is a total of 149,330 inmates, with 96,272 sentenced inmates and 53 058 remand detainees.

This means that 55.1% of the inmate population have yet to have their day in court.

“Some are in our centres for economic crimes such as shoplifting, stealing and robbery. There are also those who have committed heinous crimes,” Lamola said.

Efforts to address overcrowding

In the next five years, South Africa will create an additional 3,000 bed space through upgrades and construction of new facilities.

“However, as I have said, experience has taught us that it is not possible for our infrastructure projects to outpace the rate of conviction due to our high crime rate in the country.”

“This means the level of crime must significantly be reduced for us to avoid overcrowding,” the Minister said.

Rehabilitation programmes

The Minister has called on communities not to discriminate against released inmates, who have acquired skills to make an honest living.

In the last financial year, production workshops in Correctional Services in which inmates operate produced the following:

  • 7 million loaves of bread
  • 3 million litres of milk
  • 415,000 kg of fruits
  • 471,000 kg of red meat
  • 7 million kg of pork and
  • 539,000 kg of poultry
  • 4 million dozens of eggs

Covid-19

To date, Correctional Services centres have recorded 1,485 recoveries and it is attending to 497 Covid-19 active cases.

“Our sincerest condolences go to the families of 16 citizens in our centres, who have since passed on as result of COVID-19,” the minister said.

 

Source: BusinessTech

Photo Credit: Unsplash

 

New projects in SA, including a Spacehub and a New City

The inaugural Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium South Africa (Sidssa) was launched on Tuesday (23 June) as part of a major government initiative to encourage development in the country.

As part of the government’s presentation, it outlined a number of ‘catalytic projects’ which provide a ‘snapshot of its ambition’ as well as its priorities and projected impact.

The Space Infrastructure Hub for National Development

The Space Infrastructure Hub will allow for the development of satellite infrastructure, satellite-based augmentation systems, and earth observation satellites.

“Domestic access to this type of infrastructure will reduce South Africa’s reliance on other countries for the type of information that these satellites can make available and is expected to reduce the time frames for collecting necessary data.

Government said that the proposed investment value of the project is R3.1 billion and the investment period is three years.

Over the three year period, the investment will on average support 4,695 jobs per year, of which a quarter will be in the informal economy, it said.

Broadband – Project Thobela

“Businesses and households are becoming increasingly reliant on the internet, and the Covid-19 pandemic has forced even more activity online.

“For an economy to benefit from the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), it needs to have access to affordable broadband,” government said.

Government said that the proposed investment value of the project is R9.8 billion and the investment period is seven years.

Over the seven-year period, investment in Project Thobela will on average support 6,553 job opportunities per year, of which just over a quarter will be in the informal economy, it said.

New City – The Greater Cornubia

The Greater Cornubia is a mixed-use and mixed-income development, which consists of industrial, commercial, residential and open spaces.

It is situated 25km from Durban’s CBD and 7km from King Shaka International Airport. The development will include 58,000 housing opportunities available to a wide range of income groups, and which will be provided by the public and private sectors.

The proposed investment value of the project is R25 billion and the investment period is 16 years (the project officially started in 2016).

“Over the first 10 years, investing in the Greater Cornubia will on average support 11,254 jobs per year, of which more than half (57%) will be for semi-skilled and low-skilled labour.”

Scheepersvlakte Citrus Farm

Scheepersvlakte is a greenfield citrus project, that will grow 516 hectares of citrus in the Kirkwood region in the Eastern Cape province.

“Once the farm is operational, it will create employment opportunities for farmworkers and for the downstream processing of fruit and nuts into other consumables.

The proposed investment value of the project is R122 million and the investment period is five years.

Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project (Phase 2A)

The MCWAP-2A will increase water supply in the Lephalale region, government said.

“In the case of the MCWAP-2A, we understand that the water will be used as a second source for the Medupi and Matimba Power Stations, and that it will also help to meet the growing demand for water in Lephalale Municipality.

The proposed investment value of the project is R12.4 billion and the investment period is five years.

 Source: BusinessTech

Photo Credit: Depositphoto

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