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:

 

PRESIDENTIAL LETTER TO CITIZENS 23 March 2020

This morning, 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa released a letter to all South Africans.

The statement reads:

“Dear Fellow South African,

There comes a time in the affairs of a country when, in the face of the most formidable of challenges, its very existence as a nation is put to the test.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to spread at a relentless pace across the globe. As nations of the world we find ourselves in the same fight: to contain the virus, to protect the lives of our people, and to fortify our economies against the inevitable disruption to manufacturing, productivity, growth and employment.

It has been a week since we declared a National State of Disaster as an urgent response to the outbreak and put in place necessary containment measures.

These measures relate to the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people, restrictions on people entering the country, the closure of schools, the sale of alcohol and emergency procurement procedures in support of the fight against COVID-19.

The Department of Health, supported by the entire government communications machinery, has led efforts to raise awareness among the general public around screening and detection, prevention, hygiene control and the importance of social distancing.

The manner in which all South Africans have taken charge of not just their own personal health but the health of those around them has been exemplary and heartening. Everywhere we see signs of behavioural change as the nation rallies behind infection control measures.

From filling stations to taxi ranks, from spazas to restaurants, South Africans fully understand the gravity of the situation. Hand-washing is being practiced and hand sanitiser is available in stores and other retail spaces. People are observing the rules restricting large public gatherings. Businesses and workplaces are complying with the regulations in the best interests of their customers and employees.

Last week representatives from all the political parties in Parliament stood united on a public platform to declare their support for the national effort to combat the pandemic. At the same time, they offered practical and workable suggestions on how we can mitigate its impact on lives and livelihoods.

In the same week, religious leaders representing a multiplicity of faiths and denominations also affirmed their support, taking bold and far-reaching decisions to contain the spread of the virus in churches, temples, mosques and synagogues. They did so fully understanding that no matter how sensitive and difficult these decisions are, the sanctity of life must be preserved.

Corporate South Africa and the business community have stepped up, affirming their support for the emergency measures and regulations, and opening channels of engagement around the economic impact of COVID-19. Yesterday, I met with representatives of the business community to discuss measures we need to take together to combat the pandemic and address its economic impact.

Elsewhere, large retailers have issued directives restricting the purchase quantities of in-demand items to curtail so-called ‘panic buying’. This measure was a laudable effort to protect the rights of ordinary South Africans, but most especially the poor. It is also a welcome sign that South African business will not engage in unscrupulous profiteering from a national disaster.

This week I will be meeting with different arms of the state, trade unions, traditional leaders, civil society formations and other sectors. I have no doubt that they too are already mobilised and united behind the national effort.

What we are witnessing is social solidarity in action, a defining feature of our nationhood. At times of crisis such as this one, it would be easy to surrender to the impulses of opportunism, greed and naked self-interest. History bears witness to the dark side of human nature that can be exposed when fear and panic takes hold.

But as the South African nation we are standing firm. As we navigate our way through the difficult times that lie ahead, we must continue in the spirit of empathy and selflessness and move with unity of purpose. The social compacts of which I have spoken are needed now as never before. Of these, the social compact between citizens and their government is the most important of all.

I am a firm believer in the people. I also believe, as Abraham Lincoln once said, that “if given the truth, [the people] can be depended upon to meet any national crisis”.

We know the truth and what is to be done. We have to contain the spread of the virus. We have to ensure those who need help get it. We have to observe the highest standards of hygiene and practice social distancing.

Our success relies on the effort and energies of every citizen and their commitment to help and assist others.

This crisis will not debilitate our nation. In how we have responded, we have affirmed the true character of our nationhood. It is strong, it is resilient and, above all, it is rooted in solidarity.

It is these attributes of our national character that won us our democracy and it is what will ensure our victory over this pandemic.

With best wishes,

Cyril Ramaphosa

IT’S TORTOISE TUFF TIME

This Saturday sees the running (and walking) of one of Sedgefield’s biggest and most-loved sporting events – The Sedgefield Striders Tortoise Tuff, sponsored by Pick n Pay and a host of other generous co-sponsors.
Indeed from 5am onwards the Sedgefield Primary School fields will be buzzing with ever-intensifying pre-race excitement as athletes from all over the Western Province, and indeed South Africa, arrive to take on the Tuff challenge.
The two most gruelling races the Tuff has are the 30km, which takes runners (and some walkers) over the steepest terrain that Sedgefield and surrounds has to offer, and the 23km Trail Run that leads athletes on sandy pathways through the hills and valleys of the Goukamma Nature Reserve. The 30km walk starts at 6am, and the run at 7am, whilst the trail run sets off at 7.10am.
But there are easier, and indeed quicker-paced events on offer too. The 10km course, which forms part of the Athletics South West District Running and Walking Trials, is flat and fast, taking competitors around the scenic Island suburb. As well as the speedsters and those looking to improve their 10km personal best, the race is also popular for runners and walkers who are after a more social experience. The starting time for this event is 7.15am.
As is tradition, the Striders’ race-day menu also includes something for the young, and perhaps not so fit. This is the 3km Tortoise Tuff Fun Run, which forms part of the ASWD Sub-youth trials and starts at 7.20am. Always a favourite for people of all ages and fitness levels, what better event for a bit of family time together?
Online entries for all these events are already closed, but late entries will be accepted at the school field on the afternoon of Friday (13 March). The Fun Run may be entered either on the Friday afternoon, or on the morning of the race from 6am onwards.
The Tortoise Tuff organisers are extremely grateful that many of Sedgefield’s businesses, clubs, and indeed residents have stepped forward to support the event. This assistance includes anything from sponsoring spot prizes, to operating refreshment tables at designated spots along the course, to acting as marshals at various intersections.
Locals who aren’t taking part are encouraged to show their Sedgefield Community spirit by encouraging the runners along the courses, and coming to the school to cheer them in at the end of each race. Please also be aware of the sizeable increase of ‘pedestrian traffic’ on our roads during the morning.

MUNICIPALITY APPROACHES COURT FOR INTERDICT OVER LAND INVASIONS

The Knysna Municipality has approached the High Court for an urgent interdict to address land invasions in the Greater Knysna area. 

Dr Michele Gratz, acting Municipal Manager said the application follows land invasions on the Groenvallei sand dunes in Sedgefield. “The area at this stage cannot be classified as safe and stable, and in the interest of safety, we urge residents not to build on these dunes. The invasion also poses a serious risk to the integrity of this sensitive coastal landscape.”

“We ask the community to refrain from any unlawful activity and appeal to them to cooperate with the Municipality. We have no option but to enforce and uphold the law. The interdict will allow the municipality to open a case of trespassing against anyone occupying land illegally and arrest anyone trespassing on the land and prosecute them successfully”, Gratz, continued.

“To protect the assets and infrastructure of our town we are taking a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to illegal activities like these. Despite our warnings, residents continue to unlawfully invade land and rely on the Property Act (PIE Act) to legitimise their unlawful behaviour. We will no longer tolerate this. Communities must be mindful that this matter took up time and resources which could have been spent on service delivery”, Gratz concluded.

Knysna Council approves cost-cutting measures to alleviate cash flow crisis

At a Special Council meeting held on 26 February, Council approved cost-cutting measures presented by Acting Municipal Manager, Dr Michele Gratz.

She said various factors led to the current cash-flow crisis faced by the Municipality, including unrealistic budgeting, poor financial controls, a high percentage of outstanding debtors and an increased capital budget.

Dr Gratz presented a short, medium and long-term plan to address the cash flow crisis. “In terms of Liquidity Management, the current ratio of current assets to current liabilities is 1.24:1. The national norm as set by National Treasury is 1.5:1. This means that the Municipality’s immediate available cash and cash equivalents would not be available to settle accounts payable within the legally prescribed period of 30 days. However, the ratio of total borrowings to total operating revenue is 21% compared to the norm of 45%, so we have an opportunity to borrow funds for capital expenditure for service delivery. “

The following actions, overseen and driven by a project team, are proposed for implementation immediately:

  • Obtaining a short –term loan/overdraft facility;
  • Freezing of all unfilled posts;
  • Curtailment of capital projects funded by own funds;
  • Curtailment of travelling and subsistence costs;
  • Curtailment of overtime;
  • Curtailment of catering;
  • Implementation of strict budget control measures;
  • Implementation of strict credit control procedures;
  • Efficient collection of grants that are outstanding.

In the medium-term, the following actions need to be followed:

  • Issue of a proper budget procedure for the 2020 / 2021 Budget year;
  • Revise performance targets;
  •  Ensure that municipal activities, rules and procedures are consistent with relevant policies, legislation and by-laws.  Revision of all municipal policies, strategies and operational plans;
  •  Taking up of loans at the beginning of the financial year and not bridge financing;
  • Revision of all employee-related policies;
  • Revision of organisational structure in line with service delivery and within the affordability of Municipality;
  • Revision of tariffs in line with actual costs;
  • Cash flows.

For the long term, Gratz suggested that a financial recovery plan be designed with the purpose of improving service delivery. “This plan should include a revision of the roles and responsibilities of local authorities as envisaged in the Local Government Turnaround Strategy (LGTAS).  These are service delivery, governance, financial management, infrastructure development and fighting corruption. It is important that only functions allocated to the local government in terms of schedules 4 Part B and 5 Part B of the Constitution be undertaken and funded by Council.”

SCARCE SKILLS POLICY

Council also voted in favour of a recommendation from Gratz to stop the payment of the 20% Scarce Skills Allowances to the Municipal Manager and Directors with immediate effect, and instructed her to recover all amounts paid since inception. In her recommendation, she said that she received notice from the office of MEC Anton Bredell that the payments are unlawful, and that he has launched an application to the High Court against the Municipality. “Provincial Treasury also advised that these payments are unlawful. At a cost of over R117 000 per month, our cash flow crisis and a pending court order against us, there was no other option than to cease these payments.”

GRANT-IN-AID

The annual Grant-in-aid proposal was presented to Council for approval at the meeting. Gratz said Council noted the application, but decided to hold back with the allocations until the Municipality’s cash flow has improved.

INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGED ALLEGATIONS AGAINST MUNICIPAL MANAGER DR VATALA

At a Council meeting on 13 February, Council placed Municipal Manager Dr Vatala on precautionary suspension after allegations of alleged financial misconduct were leveled against him.  Gratz said that despite Dr Vatala being given until 25 February to make written presentation why he should not be suspended on a second complaint brought by the Knysna Ratepayers, Council has not received any response. “An independent investigator was appointed and with the recently appointed Disciplinary Board, we will proceed with a full investigation. A report must be submitted to the Executive Mayor within a period of 30 days of appointment.”

The disciplinary board consists of the Chief Audit Executive of the Knysna Municipality, the Legal Advisor of Mossel Bay Municipality, the Chairperson of the Audit Committee of the Knysna Municipality and the Head of Legal Services, George Municipality.

IMPROVED SERVICE DELIVERY

Dr Gratz said that the cash flow crisis is an opportunity to streamline processes and improve service delivery. “With the LGTAS we will increase efficiency, improve the turnaround time on complaints and queries and manage overtime better. It will also include stricter budget control measures and with our medium and long term plans in place, we strive to make the Municipality better and stronger.”

COMMUNITY PICKS UP GROENVLEI CAUSE

When Cape Nature called for public participation in solving the much publicised Groenvlei carp problem, they surely had no idea how seriously their request would be taken.
The call for assistance was made at a public meeting held on 6 February where many local residents voiced concerns over the condition of the lake, which is thought to be due to the exponential growth of the population of invasive carp.

Soon after the meeting, local fishing enthusiast Gill Thomas, contacted Johnny Snyman, inviting him and his bow-hunting team to lunch. She congratulated the bow-hunters on their effort towards reducing the carp numbers in the Groenvlei Lake. Rightfully so, considering they have removed an impressive 12 tonnes of the invasive species in the last 20 months.

She then offered to assist them in increasing their efforts with the use of specialised carp nets, which she would sponsor – to the tune of R20 000!
“Furthermore,” Johnny enthused later, “Gill told us that if anyone matches her donation, she will double it!”
Two nets – each 100m long – have been ordered from Bertie Burger, a professional net maker from the West Coast who has been handcrafting specialised nets since he was 12. He is now over 70.
Bertie and his wife are driving down to Sedgefield and will arrive on Friday to deliver the nets and advise on their usage. This too has been made possible by a community effort. Their accommodation has been provided free by Lake Pleasant Chalets and Lodges, with Traders and Garden Bistro providing their meals.
Michael Berman, another local, has also kindly donated a trawling motor and an outboard motor to Johnny’s team to be used in the carp eradication project.

Armed with this extra ‘arsenal’ for carp capture, they will continue running the bow-hunting project, whilst setting the gill nets at the same time. They are designed to be species specific, so that bass or any indigenous fish are not affected.
“The permit allows us to put the nets out just after sunset, and they must be taken in just before sunrise,” explains Johnny, “This is important as it minimises the danger of catching birds and otters.”

He says that his team partners well with Cape Nature. There is a good deal of trust on both sides and he is convinced that each has Groenvlei’s best interest at heart.

Johnny may be contacted on johnny@heartwoodbowsonline.com

Knysna Municipal Manager, Dr Sitembele Vatala placed on precautionary suspension

Following a special council meeting Thursday 13 February, Knysna Municipal Manager, Dr Sitembele Vatala, was placed on precautionary suspension as a result of allegations levelled against him. The section of the meeting in which this matter was discussed was closed to the public. Deputy Executive Mayor Cllr Aubrey Tsengwa said that all Councillors voted in favour of this suspension. “Council will appoint an independent investigator within 7 days to probe the allegations and the municipal manager will be on suspension for the duration of the investigation. The investigator must submit its findings to the municipal council within 30 days.”

Tsengwa said the investigator will take an in-depth look into the allegations brought against Dr Vatala. “The Municipal Manager’s precautionary suspension was for the protection of all parties and to ensure an unbiased investigation without any influence from the parties involved.”

Tsengwa concluded by saying that it is important to note that Dr Vatala has not been charged with any misconduct at this point in time. “Dr Michelle Gratz, former municipal manager of Mossel Bay Municipality has been appointed as the acting municipal manager in the interim.”

“I want to assure the public that the investigation will not influence service delivery and the day to day running of the municipality. The Knysna Council has acted with the well-being of the Municipality as our first and foremost priority. We have confidence in the ability of  Dr Gratz to steer the administration during this time.”

ALL EYES ON KNYSNA MUNICIPALITY

Picture – Knysna’s current Municipal Manager Dr Vatala – are his days numbered?

It seems that Knysna Municipality is holding its collective breath at the moment as all wait to see if  Dr Sitembele Wiseman Vatala becomes the third Municipal Manager in succession to leave the local authority under a cloud.
This after Knysna Municipality landed in such a cash-strapped position that there is a question as to whether February’s salary bill can be met.
At the Council Meeting on 30 January, the blame for this situation was put squarely on Vatala’s shoulders by a majority of councillors, who eventually voted for a motion that he be given seven days to give written reasons why he should not be suspended for, in basic terms, mismanagement of the Municipality’s finances. This motion, proposed by DA’s Peter Myers, was carried eleven votes to nine.
It seems that this huge cash-flow problem is a result of the expenditure of approximately R66 million over budget, and under-performance in revenue collection of R16 million. Furthermore, approximately R26 million of the Municipality’s own funds has been used for advanced funding of projects set to be paid for through National and Provincial Government grants.
This left the Municipality as at 31 December 2019, with a cash deficit of almost R10 million.
“How could this happen?” asked Councillor Peter Myers, “How did we get into this situation, from a perfect budget passed midway through last year, to the dire situation we are in now?”
He believes that the Municipal Manager had ignored the warning signs.
“In terms of the Municipal Systems Act, the Accounting Officer – that is the Municipal Manager – is ultimately responsible for the management of the Municipality’s income and expenditure,” he said.
Whilst there were no accusations of theft or corruption made at the lengthy and rather feisty council meeting, it was more than evident that the knives were out and it was Vatala’s head that was on the block.
The Chief Financial Officer Mbulelo Memani was also at the meeting, and presented, on behalf of the Municipal Manager, a Draft Cash Management Plan, explaining how they had got into trouble and including several remedial actions to try and right the severely listing ship. They were:-
• To immediately arrange an overdraft facility with the bank. This is necessary for only short-term bridging finance, and may not exceed the capital projects earmarked to be financed from borrowing.
• The capital projects earmarked to be financed from loans must all be reconsidered and only those projects which are absolutely essential must continue. The other projects should be delayed, or cancelled.
• The projects which they would continue must then also be financed from loans.
• The calculated capital needed for these projects must be immediately borrowed, and not involve waiting until the projects are completed.
• All future capital projects to be financed from loans, until the municipality has recovered from the cash flow deficit and has rebuilt a healthy Capital Replacement Reserve.
• A moratorium should be placed on the filling of all budgeted vacancies, except where it is again absolutely critical for essential service delivery. This must prevail until a proper work-study is conducted, in order to ensure that the organogram is aligned to the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) which is efficient, affordable and sustainable.
However, Councillor Myers said he did not want Vatala steering the ship any longer, reasoning that the person who had allowed the Municipality to get into such a precarious financial position should surely not be the one in charge of the recovery plan.
Vatala was particularly aggrieved by the suggestion that he was to blame, calling the proposal for his suspension an illegal move. But not even his vocal threat to personally sue any councillor who did not vote in his favour was enough to deter the majority.
Since the motion was passed, the Municipal Manager has been issued with a written notification, the deadline for his reply being Monday 10 February. What response, if any, he has given will only come to light at the Special Council Meeting set for Thursday 13 February.