Mkhize reassures SA it will move to level 3
Health minister Zweli Mkhize moved to reassure the nation on Wednesday that the whole country would move to level 3 on June 1 - but warned that areas with outbreaks could return to a hard lockdown. There was confusion over whether some parts of the country would stay on level 4 on June 1 after a briefing by Mkhize to parliament’s National Council of Provinces on Tuesday. However, an "outdated" slide “was inadvertently included in a presentation that had been updated”. He said when the country moved to level 3 there would be continuous assessment of every area and its rate of infection, and, if necessary, further containment measures and restrictions might be considered. “If the spread of the infection is not contained ... the government will make a determination on whether to return that specific area to alert level 4 or 5.”
DA begins retrenchments to 'remain robust'
SA's official opposition party, the DA, has taken a “painful but necessary decision” to retrench staff to improve operational effectiveness. In a letter titled “organisational restructuring”, the DA announced to staff that as of Wednesday its HR department would send letters to affected employees and invite them to consultations. The purpose of the consultations, according to the letter, would be explained to affected staff. “The decision was taken with a profound appreciation for the impact this may have on our staff during this time of lockdown,” it said. The DA’s organisational review steering committee told employees the decision was necessary to ensure the party remained a robust and effective opposition party focused on accountability, growing voters, and remaining financially viable. The authenticity of the letter has been verified by the party.
'Fraudsters' nabbed after R3m stolen 10 years ago
The law finally caught up with two service providers who allegedly stole more than R3m from the health department in the Eastern Cape a decade ago. They allegedly used computer monitoring software to record keystrokes on computers, capturing log-in details to transfer money into bank accounts operated by a syndicate. Hawks spokesperson Capt Lloyd Ramovha said the two had been contracted as service providers. “About R3.1m was then transferred into the syndicate’s various bank accounts from 14 fraudulent transactions that were initially paid to four local schools that were listed as beneficiaries. A Hawks investigation revealed that these payments were never authorised by the department, which necessitated a closer look at service providers who had access to the department’s IT infrastructure.” The accused, Moses Justice Luthuli and Owen Bruce James, have made several court appearances and are due back in the dock in June and in July.
The EU plan to restart stuttering economy
The European Union’s executive on Wednesday proposed a blueprint for the bloc’s next budget and a linked Covid-19 recovery fund to provide huge stimulus to the continent’s coronavirus-battered economy. The European Commission proposed a €1.1tn (about R21tn) budget for the bloc for 2021 to 2027 and a €750bn (R14,4tn) recovery fund to help kickstart growth. Boosting the EU’s green and digital capacities are the key objectives. The plan needs to win unanimous backing of the 27 member states and the European parliament. - Reuters
Hong Kong stamps out national anthem protests
Hong Kong police cast a dragnet around the financial hub’s legislature on Wednesday, firing pepper balls and arresting hundreds of people as they clamped down on protests against a bill banning insults to China’s national anthem. The latest unrest comes days after China announced plans to impose a national security law on Hong Kong after last year's pro-democracy rallies. That move has prompted US president Donald Trump to warn that Hong Kong might lose its status as a global financial centre if the city’s freedoms and judicial independence are swept aside. Police said more than 300 people were arrested, mostly on suspicion of holding an unlawful assembly. - AFP
Malaysian launches test case against gay sex law
A Malaysian man has launched the country's first legal challenge against Islamic laws banning gay sex, a test case supporters say could help combat growing persecution of the LGBT community. The man was charged last year for allegedly attempting to have "intercourse against the order of nature". Campaigners say a victory could help halt the trend of local sharia authorities introducing legislation targeting gay people. In another high-profile case, two women were caned in a sharia court in 2018 after being found guilty of having lesbian sex. - AFP