South Africa: Today's latest news and headlines, Wednesday 20 May

Never miss a beat when it comes to the latest news in South Africa; review our daily wrap of all major headlines on Wednesday 20 May.

Following Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's announcement that schools will officially reopen on 1 June, questions concerning the prolonged lockdown and district-based approached have come to the fore.


Schools rush to prepare for pupils on 1 June

School Management Teams and teachers are preparing to return to classrooms next week. This comes after Minister Motshekga revealed that schools would reopen to Grade 7 and 12 pupils on 1 June. The basic education department, which ratified the revised school timetable on Tuesday night, will oversee local preparatory efforts.

In line with new directives issued via the Standard Operating Procedures booklet, schools will need to ensure that classrooms are sanitised and daily screening protocols are in place.

The reopening of schools comes at a time when South Africa eyes Level 3 lockdown, which would see a return of economic activity and increased social freedoms. With schools in all provinces scheduled to return on 1 June, government's district-based model, which could see some regions restricted from entering lower levels of lockdown, has come under fire.

 Over R14 billion disbursed in UIF COVID-19 benefits

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has paid out over R14 billion in benefits to employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

"The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), an entity of the Department of Employment and Labour, today processed and paid COVID-19 TERS [ Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme] relief payments to the tune of  R748 815 094.20 benefitting 149 263 workers, represented by 9 362 employers," said the UIF.

"This brings to 2 551 236 the total number of workers who have been given relief during lockdown which may be in lieu of or a top up to their salaries. The total amount disbursed since 16 April 2020 has now topped R14 billion (R14 079 099 409 20). This is over and above the payments that the UIF makes to ordinary benefit payments which now stand at R1 849 992 773 21," said UIF Commissioner, Teboho Maruping.

Maruping said that with all the necessary information and documents furnished, the Fund is now paying beneficiaries 24-hours after the claim is made at best, or 48-hours at worst. (Source: SAnews)

Nzimande reveals university plans

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande will hold a media briefing on matters pertaining to the COVID-19 lockdown in the higher education, science and innovation sector.

In the higher education sector the Minister will address amongst other  issues; NSFAS allowances, SETAs stipends, private accommodation establishments and the return of medical students to campus.

In the science and innovation sector there will be an update on  research on South Africa's traditional medicine and the engagements with stakeholders in relation to indigenous knowledge systems and COVID-19.

Big changes coming to the taxi industry

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has announced sweeping changes to the way taxis operate during and post lockdown. The minister, who continues to conduct oversight visits to various taxi ranks and public transport hubs, reiterated the need for heightened health and safety protocols, especially in light of South Africa's move to Level 3.

In addition to screening programmes at taxi ranks, all commuters will need to sign a register to assist contact tracing efforts.

These measures are expected to roll out as a matter of urgency as the public transport braces for a surge in commuter volume in June.


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