South Africa: Today's latest news and headlines, Thursday 23 April

Stay informed and up to date with all the latest news in South Africa; check out the country's major headlines on Thursday 23 April.


Following on from his announcement regarding extraordinary economic relief measures, President Cyril Ramaphosa is, once again, scheduled to address the nation on the lockdown's gradual relaxation. At the same time, the president has received criticism for allegedly flouting parliamentary procedures in sanctioning a full-scale SANDF deployment, which is reported to last until June 2020.

Today's latest news in South Africa, Thursday 23 April

Lockdown announcement: Ramaphosa talks relaxation


Lockdown-fatigued South Africans will turn their attention to President Ramaphosa today, who is due to address the nation on lockdown-related issues. Following the president's address on Tuesday night — which dealt almost exclusively with economic and social relief measures intended to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak — directives linked to the lightening of lockdown regulations are expected to be delivered today.


Government has already been clear on the fact that lockdown, despite its calamitous impact on the economy, will not come to an abrupt end on 30 April. Instead, the National Command Council (NCC), tasked with overseeing government's response to the outbreak and adjusting regulations associated with the Disaster Management Act, revealed that the lockdown will be 'phased out' in stages.


President Ramaphosa is expected to elaborate on the vague phased approach, which, amongst other things, will look at which industries will first return to operation and how social distancing will be prioritised.

Full-scale SANDF deployment under fire


A leaked document, penned by President Ramaphosa, ordering the deployment of more than 70 000 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel, has been brought under the microscope. The letter, which first found its way online on Tuesday evening, has raised serious questions about the military's role in post-lockdown South Africa.


The call, which will place almost every single soldier on the streets, has been supported by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who, in turn, has threatened to take action against Democratic Alliance leader, John Steenhuisen. Mapisa-Nqakula says Steenhuisen needs to be held accountable by parliament for leaking the sensitive document.


Matters were made even more complicated when the Co-Chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, Cyril Xaba, to whom the letter was addressed, at first denied any knowledge of the document.


Civil rights groups, politicians and members of the public have voiced concerns over South Africa implementing 'martial law' after 30 April.

Lockdown unrest on the outskirts of Cape Town


Law enforcement agencies, on Wednesday, clashed with protesters on the R300 highway near Mitchells Plain outside Cape Town. The protests, ostensibly related to the lockdown and 'failure' of the food parcel system, follow a severe spate of lootings on the Cape Flats.


Failing to heed the call to disperse, protesters pelted police officers with stones. Law enforcement, in return, opened fire on the crowd with rubber bullets and tear gas.


Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has called for an end to the violence and looting, calling on the military and South African Police Service (SAPS) to monitor hotspots in the province.

NSFAS students urged to open bank accounts


The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has urged qualifying students to open bank accounts to ensure a more efficient disbursement of funds from institutions.


NSFAS Administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen, said the scheme is working on a banking model that will eliminate all intermediaries in the disbursement value chain.


The model will also facilitate direct deposits from NSFAS into student bank accounts.


"At present NSFAS, through its NSFAS Wallet, is already paying directly to students from 32 of the 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. During this week, NSFAS will be extending this facility to three additional colleges to ensure improved flow of funds directly to students. Students will be informed accordingly," Carolissen said.


Following the announcement of the countrywide lockdown by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, NSFAS activated a business continuity plan.


The plan aims to facilitate uninterrupted funding to students, the resolution of student applications queries, processing of appeals and general assistance to institutions with NSFAS administration. (Source: SAnews)

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