SEDGEFIELD’S NEW NORMAL

This visual of hope for Sedgefield was captured by Marine Ranger Jonathan Britton of SANParks.

As more and more businesses are allowed to open, there is indeed hope that somehow Sedgefield will return to normal after such an extended lockdown. But it is the ‘New Normal’ that has become a reality.

Whilst we are all able to enjoy more and more of this town’s wonderful offerings, the numbers of COVID-19 infections are increasing (see article below) and it is of utmost importance that we all abide by the social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitizing guidelines as prescribed by our health authorities. Even if you are not in agreement with these rules, please be aware that businesses may well be shut down if their customers do not comply, so their future is in everyone’s hands.

The following paraphrase of an anonymous social media post says it all. “As businesses start to re-open, please understand that many of them have just survived one of the hardest professional and personal challenges they have ever faced. Whilst they are excited to be back in business, the owners and their employees are still stressed, and they are not through the woods yet.

“Please do not go to these businesses and complain about all the new policies and protocols that they must put in place by law. Please accept changes that may have occurred due to lost revenue or less employees. The owners more than likely do not have the same business they had two months ago, and whilst most are doing everything they can do to adapt to the situation, there is no doubt that the ‘New Normal’ is very different to how they are used to doing business.

Be kind, be compassionate and have patience.” And please, please, wherever possible, support local.

NEW MAYOR, NEW ACTING MM, NEW HOPE FOR KNYSNA?

New Executive Mayor Elrick van Aswegen (Elle Photography)

At a Special Council meeting held on 11 of June, long-serving Ward 6 COPE Councillor Elrick ‘Ricky’ van Aswegen was elected as Knysna’s new Executive Mayor.
This ended nine mayorless months for Knysna since Mark Willemse lost the executive position last year after being expelled from the DA Party.
Though van Aswegen’s election to Mayor was thanks to votes from the ANC and KUC councillors, there are many residents who are hoping that the politically well-seasoned ex teacher, who has been involved in Knysna politics since 1993, will make the perfect ‘middle-man’ between the DA and the ANC parties, and get Knysna moving forward in a positive direction. With the wards of Willemse and the recently resigned Peter Myers both awaiting by-elections, currently the DA and the ANC both have eight seats on the council, with COPE, KUC and ACDP each holding one.
In his inaugural Mayoral speech on Monday 15 June, van Aswegen emphasised that getting Knysna back on track as a town would be a major priority.
“A turnaround strategy for our financial woes is vital if we do not want service delivery to be affected. It is, however, important to note that we are not a bankrupt municipality, but are facing serious fiscal challenges.” He went on to say that the 2017 fires, the current COVID-19 crisis and poor financial decision-making had contributed to this situation, and that steps had already been implemented to contain costs and curb spending.
The new mayor also touched on the sensitive subject of corruption.
“Knysna Municipality and Knysna Council are not at the epicentre of corruption. There are appropriate legislation and legal procedures to deal with instances of alleged corruption. Council has instituted action against a number of officials on receipt of allegations. However, it must be noted that these procedures exist to not only punish the persons involved, but to allow those officials who may be falsely accused of corruption to restore their names to dignity. I will ensure that these matters are dealt with swiftly and in a procedurally correct manner.”
Regarding the disastrous effect that the COVID crisis has and will continue to have on tourism, the driving force of Knysna’s economy, the Mayor did not offer any quick-fix.
“We are in for a tough time,” he said “And it will take time to recover.” He added that he had set up a meeting with Provincial Treasury to explore ways they might assist in rebooting Knysna’s fragile economy.
But van Aswegen admitted that his most immediate priority would be to get Council’s approval of the budget for the next financial year. According to legislation this has to be done by the end of June, before the start of the new fiscal year but has not gained a majority vote at the last two council meetings for various reasons. “In light of the Municipality’s financial situation, we urgently need an approved budget so we can get down to business. If we do not, our poorest will become poorer and the town and this municipality will continue to suffer financially. As Executive Mayor, I shall act on my responsibilities and enter into talks with all parties to ensure we approve the Budget in time. We must all consider our responsibilities to our constituents and reach a consensus on this matter by Thursday.”
The Mayor ended his inaugural speech with a vote of thanks for deputy Mayor Aubrey Tsengwa who has been holding the fort for the last nine months, and a warm welcome to the new Acting Municipal Manager Dr Louis Scheepers, who had just begun his tenure.
Mayor van Aswegen will announce his Mayoral Committee in due course.
Asked for his thoughts on the new Mayor, Sedgefield’s Ward 1 DA Councillor Levael Davis was upbeat about the COPE Councillor’s election and wished him well, hoping that he would be the man to focus council members from all parties on a common goal.
“I would like to congratulate Cllr Elrick van Aswegen,” he said, “He has the political experience required to navigate Knysna through this challenging time. One thing I ask is that he does not forget about the value and significance of Sedgefield and that he will address our residents’ concerns. I wish him well.”
Cathy Weideman, Sedgefield’s Ward 2 Councillor did not respond herself, but forwarded comment from Dr Dion George, the DA Constituency Head for Knysna.
“The DA in Knysna congratulates Councillor Ricky van Aswegen, from the COPE on his election as the Executive Mayor of Knysna.
“Cllr van Aswegen and the ANC form the local government in Knysna and the DA will rigorously pursue its role as the official opposition. We assure the people of Knysna that we will be holding Councillor van Aswegen and the ANC to account.
“In our role as the official opposition, we will appoint shadow MMC’s who will closely monitor the performance of their counterparts in government and hold them to the high standards expected of them in service of all of the people of Knysna.”

Knysna also welcomes a new Acting Municipal Manager. Dr Louis Scheepers started on Friday 12 June, only a day after the controversial exit of the previous Acting Municipal Manager, Dr Michele Gratz.

Dr Scheepers has a wealth of experience in local government, beginning in 1992 when he started as a clerk with the then Eden District Municipality. After nine years holding various positions there, he went on to be the Municipal Manager of Saldanha Bay from 2001 to 2006. He later returned to Saldanha to hold the same position there from 2012 to 2016.

Dr Scheepers has also worked for three years as a Unit Manager for the Development Bank of South Africa, and as a consultant to the MEC for Local Governance from 2006 to 2008, during which time he was the administrator of the embattled Oudtshoorn Municipality.

During 2009 he was the Administrator for the Koukamma Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

From January 2017 to October 2018, Dr Scheepers held the position of Executive Director Area-based Service Delivery for the City of Cape Town.

After leaving this post he set up and ran his own consultancy company, the Lemon Tree Group (Pty) Ltd.

The doctor says he has a special connection to Greater Knysna, as prior to the amalgamation of municipalities in the late 90’s he was the secretary to the councils of Brenton on Lake, Brenton on Sea, Belvidere and Rheenendal.

He is currently an Adjunct Professor of the University of Western Cape School of Government.

CRY THE BELOVED KNYSNA

So said Acting Municipal Manager Michele Gratz after tending her resignation out of sheer frustration.

Knysna Municipality was all but turned on its head in last Thursday’s ‘online’ council meeting, after the Acting Municipal Manager, the Chief Financial Officer, and the Ward 10 Councillor all tendered their resignations.

Acting Municipal Manager Dr Michele Gratz, who many believed would be the saving grace of the cash-strapped, embattled local authority, was the first to drop the bombshell. She addressed council members and officials with a prepared speech which, though presented in her matter of fact manner, had an obvious underlying charge of frustration and emotion.

Dr Gratz said that when she had been asked in February to come out of retirement and take on the role of Acting Municipal Manager of Knysna Municipality, she had neither wanted nor needed the job, but believed it her civic duty to help a municipality that was in trouble.
“With 20 years’ of experience in local government, I believed I could make a difference,” she said.
“I have given this job my all. I have worked seven days a week since the 18th of February. I have frequently worked through the night to resolve the many challenges that Knysna faces.”

She described how the COVID-19 lockdown had affected the momentum she had built up, but had not stopped her making a difference. Her actions, she said, should effect savings of R20 million for the local authority.
“Before my arrival, this municipality spent money recklessly,” she stated, “Expenditure was out of control.” Within her first month, however, she had been able to reduce the ‘stand by’ and overtime expenditure by 63% saving the municipality R1,2 million.
“If the lockdown had not hit, the finances of this Municipality COULD have been turned around,” she told the meeting.

Dr Gratz went on to outline the other challenges she had been faced with, including the process of investigating the allegations against the previous Municipal Manager, Dr Vitala, and numerous service delivery issues.

When she had first arrived the Collaborator System for correspondence and record keeping had been a shambles with more than 9000 outstanding items, many for more than eight months. She has since compelled staff to deal with these matters, and to date the backlog has been reduced to 2000.
“A culture of service delivery is growing,” she said.

Amongst numerous other problems she had dealt with, discipline had been another big issue in the Municipality. Now, she believes, staff understand that there are consequences for misconduct and low productivity.
But it was not any of these challenges that caused Dr Gratz to resign. She laid the blame for this at the feet of some internal officials working with “an external organisation with seemingly personal agendas and questionable mandate” which she said had constantly tried to dictate what happened at the municipality. She believed her refusal to toe the line and follow their instructions had culminated in the ‘Gratz must go!’ telephone call that the Deputy Mayor later informed her he had received the day prior to her resignation.

“I am not leaving to make a few privileged individuals happy,” she said, “ In fact, I would like to stay to expose their underhand tactics. However this Municipality is broken and paralysed. I cannot hold proper meetings because confidentiality is not respected. I may as well invite the external organisation to the meeting. The prevailing culture does not want to change, it does not want to help Knysna, it wants to help itself.”

“No one person can turn this Municipality around. It will need a team, and certain officials will have to be removed. The only future I see for this municipality is to go under the administration of the province.”
“If I thought I would be heard, and could make a difference, I would stay.”
“The silent majority will continue to suffer at the hands of a few.”

“Cry the beloved Knysna.”

Following her speech, Councillor Peter Myers and Chief Financial Officer Mbulelo Memani also verbally tendered their resignations.

Whilst Dr Gratz had not named the ‘Outside Organisation’ in her resignation speech, the outgoing Councillor Myers made no bones about revealing who it was in a scathing press release he issued the following morning.

“A number of individuals acting for the Knysna Ratepayers Association (KRA) have recently embarked on a campaign of bombarding the Acting Municipal Manager, Dr Michele Gratz with a never ending stream of emails, complaints and demands which seem to stem at least in part from the fact that one of their members was recently not reselected to serve on the municipal planning tribunal. The KRA has also targeted the CFO Mr Memani with its particular brand of unfair accusations and utter garbage leading to him announcing his resignation – there is only so much an individual can take. No doubt this discreditable group are planning their next hatchet job on anyone who dares to cross them and their friends in senior positions in the municipality. It would be interesting to know how much real support the KRA actually has amongst the public – not much I would venture.”

In the release he described Dr Gratz, as ‘the best municipal manager Knysna has probably ever had’, but was less complimentary of the KRA.

“In the past I have worked constructively with the KRA on numerous issues, but their recent focus on small minded and nasty attacks on those who disagree with them, reveal an organisation that has lost its way.”

“Knysna deserves to have a person of Dr Gratz’s skills, knowledge and energy to lead it in these difficult times and those who left her no alternative but to leave bear a heavy responsibility, and I hope will in time be held to account.”

The Knysna Ratepayers Association said that their committee is shocked by the accusations levelled at the KRA by the Acting Municipal Manager, and sent The EDGE a detailed response. It is, unfortunately too lengthy to publish in print, but will be available in full on The EDGE Facebook page.

It states in conclusion “Our committee has no problem with Dr. Gratz as Acting MM. In the absence of justifiable proof that these accusations against us are true, Dr Gratz owes the KRA and the ratepayers an apology, likewise if the allegations are proved to be true we will issue the same to Dr. Gratz.”

Sedgefield Ratepayers, meanwhile, have offered their support to Dr Gratz in a letter sent to Provincial Premier Alan Winde.

“Since taking office as acting Municipal Manager, Dr Gratz has performed remarkably, and in her relatively short time at the helm has managed to right many wrongs, as well as introducing the required measures to initiate the correction of the remaining shortcomings. Her valiant efforts were not appreciated by those responsible for the ruling chaos, and their vociferous opposition has resulted in her decision to resign from her post . This should be prevented if at all possible, as without her the Municipality will fail dismally.

SedgeRise – Looking to assist local Businesses

A group of concerned Sedgefielders from the business and private sector has come together to find ways to assist local small and micro businesses in their recovery from the COVID-19 lockdown.
A town where business was difficult even before the current crisis will surely have more than its fair share of embattled restaurants, shops and services desperately trying to find their feet after months of lost trade. The importance of their recovery to Sedgefield can not be overstated.
In order to initiate some sort of support for these businesses, over the next two weeks SedgeRise will be gathering information from the owners themselves. Whilst it is understood that the lockdown repercussions will mostly be of a financial nature, the group hopes that a collective ‘think-tank’ may provide suggestions of at least some other inputs that will ease the rocky road ahead.
To get the ball rolling, a ten minute online survey has been put together by the SedgeRise team, and all Sedgefield businesses are encouraged to take part. This survey, which is totally anonymous, can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/K2JSXMJ
Creating a conduit for mutual support, making use of local intellectual resources, and collective buying and marketing are all areas that the SedgeRise team plans to explore to kickstart renewed growth and sustainability within the Sedgefield local business community.
They are hoping to get the buy-in from local residents and make positive use of the wealth of wisdom of retired professionals who have chosen Sedgefield as their home.
Please email sedgerise@gmail.com if you would like to be sent a link to the survey, or indeed offer your input and be part of the SedgeRise ‘think-tank’.
And please remember to support local, wherever possible.

SEDGEFIELD’S 1st COVID-19 CASE

On Monday 18 May The EDGE received official confirmation from the Western Cape Health Department that Sedgefield had its first case of COVID-19.
Whilst as a matter of protocol the Department did not provide further information on the case, investigation and input from reliable sources has confirmed that the person who tested positive was a cancer patient in her 70s who had been brought from Cape Town to stay with her family in Smutsville. When she tested positive for COVID-19 she was taken to George hospital where she sadly passed away on Monday morning.
Her family members are reportedly in quarantine.
Nadia Ferreira, Principal Communications Officer of Western Cape Government Health for the Garden Route and Central Karoo Districts, says that whilst members of the community should not panic, they should continue to make doubly sure that they take all the necessary steps to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay.
“When facing a threat on a global scale, such as Covid-19, it is normal to feel anxious, scared, confused and overwhelmed. Even more so with the overload of information available and our numbers of positive cases increasing in the Province.
“It is normal to feel alone and frustrated. However, by limiting your exposure to other people, you can protect your family and yourself. If you must leave the house ONLY to go to work or essential shopping, wear a cloth mask, do not touch your face, stay 1,5m away from others, and wash your hands often.
“We should try to avoid all physical contact with other people so that we can limit our chances of becoming infected or infecting others. If we do have contact, we should ALWAYS observe distance and hygiene practices.
“However, this does not mean we should be unkind to others and not offer to help our friends and neighbours. It is important that we stand together and that we support each other, especially those who have tested positive for Covid-19. Anyone can be infected with Covid-19 and anyone can carry the virus, even without showing symptoms.
“The Coronavirus does not discriminate between age, gender, race, or disability. However, not everyone is at the same risk of becoming very ill. Vulnerable people are at higher risk. This is why it is so important that we take all the precautions we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from Covid-19. People who are especially vulnerable are those with underlying medical conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, lung disease, TB, and HIV.

LOCAL BUSINESS NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT MORE THAN EVER

Those who looked forward to going back to work on Friday 1 May – the date set for the end of the COVID-19 lockdown extension – were sorely disappointed, especially when the new ‘Level 4′ regulations seem to offer very little extra freedom except perhaps exercise. Worse yet, for most there was little to no opportunity to start earning again.
One only has to look at exchanges on social media, or listen to the hurried supermarket aisle conversations between stressed-out business owners to be overwhelmed by the sense of sheer frustration they are dealing with.
There is no right answer. On one side of the equation, most understand the necessity of keeping everyone at home for as long as possible – after all, we are all playing our part in a national effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve. But on the other side is an economic reality that grows more dreadful with each locked down day. Dreams collapsing, small businesses facing closure, even more unemployment than before, and no real relief in sight.
Whilst the greater Sedgefield community has diligently rolled up its sleeves to provide sustenance to those in need during lockdown, it seems that in the months ahead there will be an equally import mission – that of supporting – and indeed saving – local business.
Because of Sedgefield’s prime positioning in the Garden Route, residents have up until now been more spoiled for choice than they would be in similar sized towns elsewhere in South Africa. Where else in the world would one find such a plethora of restaurants, coffee shops, hairdressers, and so many other owner-run businesses, in a CBD that takes five minutes to walk from end to end?
Add to this mix our three very successful Saturday markets, which in pre-covid times brought visitors (and their wallets) from far and wide.
But the market stall holders now have to stay at home, as do most of the small business owners, and, of course, their staff.
With no respite in sight after more than a month of no income, any savings a small business may have had will have long been depleted, especially in Sedgefield where the economy has always been just beyond hand-to-mouth. People do not open a business in this town to make a fortune. They open so that they may live here.
We hope and pray that all our local businesses will be able to pull themselves out of the dark covid pit and start up again once they are allowed to trade, but this certainly isn’t a given.
What is a given, is that those who do manage to open are going to need all the support that local residents can give.
Never before has supporting local been so important. Every Rand will count. Every ring of the till will contribute towards local employment, local school fees, even putting bread on local tables. Small business has long been the pumping heart of the village economy, giving the residents a reason to stay and the tourists a reason to return again and again. Isn’t it worth our best efforts to keep it going?

MASK UP FOR LOCKDOWN

Two well-known Smutsville residents are making it their mission to change the face of their community – by putting a mask on it!
Etzil Dirk and Andrew Solomons are determined to make mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing and social distancing second nature for their entire community, and so boost the local defence against the Coronavirus.
“You could call us COVID-19 Marshalls,” says Andrew.
Etzil – the founder of the Facebook group Smutsville Latest News (SLN) – says he and Andrew have been very concerned about the relaxed attitude locals have towards the disease that has locked down the entire nation. They believe it is time to get the message out there that residents need to take the level 4 laws more seriously.
“We see many children playing together in the street, and adults walking without masks,” he said.
“Smutsville is like a sitting duck for this disease,” Andrew added, “If COVID-19 should ever hit our community, it will spread to everyone before we know it.”
So the two plan men to change this trend and believe that making it the talk of the town may be the answer.
“Smutsville residents have stood together before, and we can do it now,” said Andrew, “If we can just keep flooding everyone with the message about why it is important to wear a mask, sanitize hands, and keep social distancing, surely people will join us in this campaign?”
Both men feel very strongly that the longer it takes for communities to obey the Level 4 lockdown rules, the longer the government will keep this level in place. This will mean no return to work for many, and so putting food on the table will become even more of a problem.
“We have to act now,” Andrew reasoned, “We have to do our part to get South Africa back to work. Food donations cannot carry on forever, because the money will soon run out.”
Etzil and Andrew plan to get the anti-corona ball rolling through the social media videos and posts that they are creating with a definite Smutsville flavour, as well as by putting up posters and handing out flyers. But they also want to spread the message through word of mouth, asking whoever they approach to speak to others too.
“We cannot talk to everyone,” Etzil said, “But if each person we talk to takes responsibility to tell five of their friends, the word will get out there quickly.” They are asking church and community leaders to join them in their quest.
“I am so serious about this. If it is the one thing in my life that I can see through to the end, then that is my mission!” promised Andrew.
The two men are grateful to those who have already assisted them in this drive, and gave special mention to Sedgefield Pharmacy for sponsoring hand sanitiser to be used at the soup kitchens where they will be educating the children fetching their food, Alastair Fraser who has picked up the cost of poster printing, and Bramwell of BB Security who has been behind them all the way.

SURVIVING THE LOCKDOWN

On the evening of Monday 23 March, as South Africa’s population watched with bated breath, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21 day, nationwide ‘lockdown’ in an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It was one of those rare moments when South Africa united in agreement – this move was lauded as brave and indeed most necessary, especially at a time when media was (and still is) awash with newsflashes showing the devastating effect this virus has had in many other countries.

But united as we are, there will be no celebrations. The long term lockdown repercussions for an already embattled business sector is something that will surely be felt for years to come.

Locally, even as hordes of visitors arrive from Cape Town, Gauteng and other areas for the extended school holidays (or perhaps to isolate in much nicer surrounds than the metros), the lockdown has the hands of Sedgefield’s business sector tied so tightly, they can barely muster a welcome wave.

But the national lockdown is here for the right reasons, and it must be remembered that it is not a choice, it is the law.
(For those who missed it, President Ramaphosa’s speech appears in full on page 13.)

What is a lockdown?
A lockdown is an emergency protocol that requires South Africans to stay at home, except for essential purposes. All non-essential activities are suspended.
The full national lockdown will begin at midnight on Thursday 26 March and will continue for 21 days.

What is the purpose of a lockdown?
The nation-wide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of COVID-19 transmission. It will prevent the spread of the virus and thus save the lives of South Africans.

Who will remain at work?
A more detailed list of essential services will be released by government soon, but the basic ones include pharmacies, banks, supermarkets, petrol stations, media outlets, security companies and health care providers. Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies may also remain open.

So is it time to stockpile goods now?
No. Definitely not. Grocery stores and banking services will remain open throughout the lockdown period.

What will we be able to do under lockdown?
You will be able to :
– Seek medical care
– Buy groceries
– Visit the pharmacy
– Access banking services
– Get petrol
– Collect a social grant

What if we have an emergency?
Emergency services, including doctors, clinics, hospitals and pharmacies will continue to operate as usual.

What happens if we break the rules?
Anyone breaking the rules could be punished with imprisonment for up to one month or with a fine.

Can we go to work?
No. Unless you are part of the essential services listed earlier, you must stay at home. You may, however, work from home.

What should we do if we think someone in our family has contracted the coronavirus?
If you have a general practitioner, call them first for advice. It is far more likely to be the seasonal flu or another viral illness.
If you do not have a doctor and you are concerned that you or your child may have coronavirus, call your local hospital for assistance or advice.
Only people with symptoms of severe respiratory illness should go to their nearest emergency unit. Severe symptoms are rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, high or very low temperatures, confusion, trouble breathing and severe dehydration. Always inform the emergency unity of your arrival prior to entering the unit.

‘LOCK-DOWN’ STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA 24 MARCH 2020

My fellow South Africans,

It is a week since we declared the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster and announced a package of extraordinary measures to combat this grave public health emergency.

The response of the South African people to this crisis has been remarkable.

Millions of our people have understood the gravity of the situation.

Most South Africans have accepted the restrictions that have been placed on their lives and have taken responsibility for changing their behaviour.

I am heartened that every sector of society has been mobilised and has accepted the role that it needs to play.

From religious leaders to sporting associations, from political parties to business people, from trade unions to traditional leaders, from NGOs to public servants, every part of our society has come forward to confront this challenge.

Many have had to make difficult choices and sacrifices, but all have been determined that these choices and sacrifices are absolutely necessary if our country is to emerge stronger from this disaster.

Over the past week, South Africans have demonstrated their determination, their sense of purpose, their sense of community and their sense of responsibility.

For this, we salute you and we thank you.

On behalf of the nation, I would also like to thank the health workers, our doctors, nurses and paramedics who are on the frontline of the pandemic, our teachers, border officials, police and traffic officers and all the other people who have been leading our response.

Since the national state of disaster was declared, we have put in place a range of regulations and directives.

These regulations have restricted international travel, prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people, closed schools and other educational institutions and restricted the sale of alcohol after 6pm.

We reiterate that the most effective way to prevent infection is through basic changes in individual behaviour and hygiene.

We are therefore once more calling on everyone to:

  • wash hands frequently with hand sanitisers or soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • cover our nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with tissue or flexed elbow;
  • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Everyone must do everything within their means to avoid contact with other people.

Staying at home, avoiding public places and cancelling all social activities is the preferred best defence against the virus.

Over the past week, as we have been implementing these measures, the global crisis has deepened.

When I addressed the nation last Sunday there were over 160,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide.

Today, there are over 340,000 confirmed cases across the world.

In South Africa, the number of confirmed cases has increased six-fold in just eight days from 61 cases to 402 cases.

This number will continue to rise.

It is clear from the development of the disease in other countries and from our own modelling that immediate, swift and extraordinary action is required if we are to prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions in our country.

Our fundamental task at this moment is to contain the spread of the disease.

I am concerned that a rapid rise in infections will stretch our health services beyond what we can manage and many people will not be able to access the care they need.

We must therefore do everything within our means to reduce the overall number of infections and to delay the spread of infection over a longer period – what is known as flattening the curve of infections.

It is essential that every person in this country adheres strictly – and without exception – to the regulations that have already been put in place and to the measures that I am going to announce this evening.

Our analysis of the progress of the epidemic informs us that we need to urgently and dramatically escalate our response.

The next few days are crucial.

Without decisive action, the number of people infected will rapidly increase from a few hundred to tens of thousands, and within a few weeks to hundreds of thousands.

This is extremely dangerous for a population like ours, with a large number of people with suppressed immunity because of HIV and TB, and high levels of poverty and malnutrition.

We have learnt a great deal from the experiences of other countries.

Those countries that have acted swiftly and dramatically have been far more effective in controlling the spread of the disease.

As a consequence, the National Coronavirus Command Council has decided to enforce a nation-wide lockdown for 21 days with effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March.

This is a decisive measure to save millions of South Africans from infection and save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and on our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far, far greater.

The nation-wide lockdown will be enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act and will entail the following:

  • From midnight on Thursday 26 March until midnight on Thursday 16 April, all South Africans will have to stay at home.
  • The categories of people who will be exempted from this lockdown are the following: health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as the police, traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and other persons necessary for our response to the pandemic.

It will also include those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products. A full list of essential personnel will be published.

  • Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant.
  • Temporary shelters that meet the necessary hygiene standards will be identified for homeless people. Sites are also being identified for quarantine and self-isolation for people who cannot self-isolate at home.
  • All shops and businesses will be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.

Companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies will remain open.

We will publish a full list of the categories of businesses that should remain open.

Companies whose operations require continuous processes such as furnaces, underground mine operations will be required to make arrangements for care and maintenance to avoid damage to their continuous operations.

Firms that are able to continue their operations remotely should do so.

    • Provision will be made for essential transport services to continue, including transport for essential staff and for patients who need to be managed elsewhere.

 

The nation-wide lockdown is necessary to fundamentally disrupt the chain of transmission across society.

I have accordingly directed the South African National Defence Force be deployed to support the South African Police Service in ensuring that the measures we are announcing are implemented.
This nationwide lockdown will be accompanied by a public health management programme which will significantly increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management.

Community health teams will focus on expanding screening and testing where people live, focusing first on high density and high-risk areas.

To ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed, a system will be put in place for ‘centralised patient management’ for severe cases and ‘decentralised primary care’ for mild cases.

Emergency water supplies – using water storage tanks, water tankers, boreholes and communal standpipes – are being provided to informal settlements and rural areas.

A number of additional measures will be implemented with immediate effect to strengthen prevention measures. Some of those measures are that:

  • South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
  • Non-South Africans arriving on flights from high-risk countries we prohibited a week ago will be turned back.
  • International flights to Lanseria Airport will be temporarily suspended.
  • International travellers who arrived in South Africa after 9 March 2020 from high-risk countries will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.

Fellow South Africans,

Our country finds itself confronted not only by a virus that has infected more than a quarter of a million people across the globe, but also by the prospects of a very deep economic recession that will cause businesses to close and many people to lose their jobs.

Therefore, as we marshal our every resource and our every energy to fight this epidemic, working together with business, we are putting in place measures to mitigate the economic impact both of this disease and of our economic response to it.

We are today announcing a set of interventions that will help to cushion our society from these economic difficulties.

This is the first phase of the economic response, and further measures are under consideration and will be deployed as needed.

These interventions are quick and targeted.

Firstly, we are supporting the vulnerable.

    • Following consultation with social partners, we have set up a Solidarity Fund, which South African businesses, organisations and individuals, and members of the international community, can contribute to.

 

The Fund will focus efforts to combat the spread of the virus, help us to track the spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives are disrupted.

The Fund will complement what we are doing in the public sector.

I am pleased to announce that this Fund will be chaired by Ms Gloria Serobe and the deputy Chairperson is Mr Adrian Enthoven.

The Fund has a website – www.solidarityfund.co.za – and you can begin to deposit monies into the account tonight.

The Fund will be administered by a reputable team of people, drawn from financial institutions, accounting firms and government.

It will fully account for every cent contributed and will publish the details on the website.

It will have a board of eminent South Africans to ensure proper governance.

To get things moving, Government is providing seed capital of R150 million and the private sector has already pledged to support this fund with financial contributions in the coming period.

We will be spending money to save lives and to support the economy.

In this regard, we must applaud the commitment made in this time of crisis by the Rupert and Oppenheimer families of R1 billion each to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

    • We are concerned that there are a number of businesses that are selling certain goods at excessively high prices. This cannot be allowed.

 

Regulations have been put in place to prohibit unjustified price hikes, to ensure shops maintain adequate stocks of basic goods and to prevent people from ‘panic buying’.

It is important for all South Africans to understand that the supply of goods remains continuous and supply chains remain intact.

Government has had discussions with manufacturers and distributors of basic necessities, who have indicated that there will be a continuous supply of these goods. There is therefore no need for stockpiling of any items.

  • A safety net is being developed to support persons in the informal sector, where most businesses will suffer as a result of this shutdown. More details will be announced as soon as we have completed the work of assistance measures that will be put in place.
  • To alleviate congestion at payment points, old age pensions and disability grants will be available for collection from 30 and 31 March 2020, while other categories of grants will be available for collection from 01 April 2020.

All channels for access will remain open, including ATMs, retail point of sale devices, Post Offices and cash pay points.

Secondly, we are going to support people whose livelihoods will be affected.

  • We are in consultation on a proposal for a special dispensation for companies that are in distress because of COVID-19. Through this proposal employees will receive wage payment through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will enable companies to pay employees directly during this period and avoid retrenchment.
  • Any employee who falls ill through exposure at their workplace will be paid through the Compensation Fund.
  • Commercial banks have been exempted from provisions of the Competition Act to enable them to develop common approaches to debt relief and other necessary measures.

We have met with all the major banks and expect that most banks will put measures in place within the next few days.

  • Many large companies that are currently closed have accepted their responsibility to pay workers affected. We call on larger businesses in particular to take care of their workers during this period.
  • In the event that it becomes necessary, we will utilise the reserves within the UIF system to extend support to those workers in SMEs and other vulnerable firms who are faced with loss of income and whose companies are unable to provide support. Details of these will be made available within the next few days.

Thirdly, we are assisting businesses that may be in distress.

  • Using the tax system, we will provide a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for the next four months for those private sector employees earning below R6,500 under the Employment Tax Incentive. This will help over 4 million workers.
  • The South African Revenue Service will also work towards accelerating the payment of employment tax incentive reimbursements from twice a year to monthly to get cash into the hands of compliant employers as soon as possible.
  • Tax compliant businesses with a turnover of less than R50 million will be allowed to delay 20% of their pay-as-you-earn liabilities over the next four months and a portion of their provisional corporate income tax payments without penalties or interest over the next six months. This intervention is expected to assist over 75 000 small and medium-term enterprises.
  • We are exploring the temporary reduction of employer and employee contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and employer contributions to the Skill Development Fund.
  • The Department of Small Business Development has made over R500 million available immediately to assist small and medium enterprises that are in distress through a simplified application process.
  • The Industrial Development Corporation has put a package together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of more than R3 billion for industrial funding to address the situation of vulnerable firms and to fast-track financing for companies critical to our efforts to fight the virus and its economic impact.
  • The Department of Tourism has made an additional R200 million available to assist SMEs in the tourism and hospitality sector who are under particular stress due to the new travel restrictions.

I want to make it clear that we expect all South Africans to act in the interest of the South African nation and not in their own selfish interests.

We will therefore act very strongly against any attempts at corruption and profiteering from this crisis.

I have directed that special units of the NPA be put together to act immediately and arrest those against who we find evidence of corruption.

We will work with the judiciary to expedite cases against implicated persons and make sure the guilty go to jail.

South Africa has a safe, sound, well-regulated and resilient financial sector.

Since the global financial crisis, we have taken steps to strengthen the banking system, including increasing capital, improving liquidity and reducing leverage.

With a strong financial sector and deep and liquid domestic capital markets, we have the space to provide support to the real economy.

We can make sure money flows to firms and households.

We can ensure that our markets are efficient.

Last week, in line with its Constitutional mandate, the South African Reserve Bank cut the repo rate by 100 basis point. This will provide relief to consumers and businesses.

The South African Reserve Bank has also proactively provided additional liquidity to the financial system.

The Governor has assured me that the Bank is ready to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure the financial sector operates well during this pandemic.

The banking system will remain open, the JSE will continue to function, the national payment system will continue to operate and the Reserve Bank and the commercial banks will ensure that bank notes and coins remain available.

The action we are taking now will have lasting economic costs.

But we are convinced that the cost of not acting now would be far greater.

We will prioritise the lives and livelihoods of our people above all else, and will use all of the measures that are within our power to protect them from the economic consequences of this pandemic.

In the days, weeks and months ahead our resolve, our resourcefulness and our unity as a nation will be tested as never before.

I call on all of us, one and all, to play our part.

To be courageous, to be patient, and above all, to show compassion.

Let us never despair.

For we are a nation at one, and we will surely prevail.

May God protect our people.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.

God seën Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.

Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.

I thank you.

KNYSNA MUNICIPALITY TO IMPLEMENT FURTHER COVID-19 MEASURES

NB- THIS INCLUDES CLOSURE OF LOCAL BEACHES

Acting Municipal Manager Dr Michele Gratz said that in the light of the ever-increasing number of infections, the Municipality has introduced additional measures to promote the concept of Social Distancing.

“The basic definition of social distancing refers to a deliberate increase in the physical space between people. To reduce visitors to municipal buildings we ask you to please make use of Council’s e-services. “It is our duty to keep our staff and their working environment safe. Residents are encouraged to set up appointments, phone in queries, correspond via email, send us an sms (we will call back) or send a message via our Mobile App”, she said. “The list of contact details is included at the bottom of this statement.”

Council at its special meeting held on 19 March 2020 resolved to cancel all meetings including all Council and Committee meetings, Budget and IDP consultation meetings and ward report back meetings. All municipal halls, libraries, museums, sports facilities including those used for practise sessions, braai areas and play parks were also closed last week until further notice. Gratz said this includes Steenbok Park, Cathy Park, the Green Hole area and any picnic areas next to the lagoon.

“In addition to this, we are also closing all beaches with immediate effect. This includes Noetzie, Coney Glen, Green Hole, Bollard Bay, Brenton-on-Sea, Buffels Bay and all Sedgefield beaches. We will only flatten the infection curve if people adhere to calls to practice social distancing and stay at home.”

Gratz said the wellbeing of residents is their first priority. “The municipality will unblock the water meters of those residents who are in arrears with their payments and no further blocking will take place until the end of April 2020. Please note that residents are still responsible for settling their outstanding accounts. Honour arrangements made to avoid being blocked again. In terms of the Council’s policy, indigent residents receive 6kl free water per month. This scarce resource must be used responsibly and the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse to abuse water consumption.”

New security measures for visitors to municipal offices have also been introduced. “Hand-sanitation stations will be placed throughout the organisation and reception, and security or law enforcement officers will provide hand sanitisation to visitors. No large groups will be allowed entry to the building. Personal and contact details of all visitors entering any municipal building will be recorded. Kindly adhere to the directions given by security personnel or our law enforcement officers.”

She warned entry may be refused should any person choose not to follow the guidelines. “Please note that any person who hinder, interferes with, or obstructs an enforcement officer in the exercise of their duties and powers in terms of the Regulations issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, can and will be prosecuted.”

To minimise queues residents are reminded that municipal accounts can be paid at the Post Office, Spar, Pick ‘n Pay, EFT and EasyPay points nationwide.

“Please be vigilant and practice social distancing – reduce contact as far as you can. We also appreciate the steps taken by some local business owners to close their businesses for the time being, it could not have been an easy decision to make. I also want to commend local businesses for introducing measures at their premises to prevent infection, like hand sanitizing units as you enter, at pay points and when you leave. Thank you also to those residents and organisations that have started to implement social distancing, together we can make a difference. With infections rising at an alarming rate we need to do everything we can to stop the spread”, Gratz concluded.

According to the latest figures released by the Government last night, South Africa now has 274 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus.

Municipal contact numbers:

  • Main Switchboard 044 302 6300
  • Emergency Services 044 302 8911

Municipal departments:

  • Account Enquiries: 044 302 6454 or 6597 / accounts@knysna.gov.za
  • Building Inspectorate: 044 302 6533
  • Customer Care: 044 302 6594 / email customercare@knysna.gov.za
  • Corporate Services: 044 302 6557
  • Electrical Services: 044 302 6397 or 6399
  • Human Settlements (Housing): 044 302 6456 or 6377
  • SMS: 44453
  • Solid Waste Management: 044 302 6405
  • Town Planning: 044 302 6318
  • Water: 044 302 6311 

Important COVID-19 contact details:

For any questions or if you have symptoms that match those of the Corona virus, you can call the following numbers: