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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

South African Parliament seeking legal advice
on constitutionality of Universal Healthcare bill

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa’s Parliament said on Thursday it was seeking urgent legal advice from Office of the State Attorney on the constitutionality of the controversial National Healthcare Insurance (NHI) bill.

Before starting deliberating the bill, it will be important to address concerns raised by various people, including those who think they will find space to challenge the constitutionality of the bill, said Sibongiseni Dhlomo, chairperson of Parliament’s Portforlio Committee on Health.

The committee will request a meeting with Office of the State Attorney so that all members of the committee can be informed on the legal concerns that have been widely reported in the media, said Dhlomo.

"This should be done speedily, so that as we start with the NHI bill we can set aside concerns and know the contribution of legal experts in the matter," he said.

The bill, submitted to Parliament by Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize last week, envisages a package of comprehensive health services for free at private and public health facilities as part of the government’s bid to provide more equitable access to quality healthcare.

The landmark bill is expected to benefit all South African citizens, permanent residents, refugees, inmates, designated foreign nationals and all children.

Critics say the financing model of this bill will mean the imposition of a new tax on ordinary South Africans who have already been squeezed dry by the government and cannot be subjected to yet another tax.

Several political parties and numerous bodies, including the South African Private Practitioners’ Forum, voiced scepticism about the bill, calling it unrealistic, too expensive, and would potentially damage the healthcare sector, particularly when the country is facing a financial crisis.

On Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) challenged the constitutionality of the bill which it said would cripple the economy and health services in the country.

The party insists that the bill seeks to fundamentally alter healthcare policy in South Africa by creating a state-owned entity to consolidate all funds within the public and private health system.

This would result in billions of rand being placed in the hands of the politically connected, giving the health minister unvetted powers and in control of the entire health system, the DA argues.

Moreover, the bill completely centralizes the provision of healthcare by placing the management of all central hospitals under the national health department, which would ultimately lead to the nationalization of healthcare and is a clear erosion of provincial powers, according to the party.

"This bill removes the autonomy of South Africans to choose their own healthcare.

"It mandates the national department of health as the sole provider of healthcare in the country while all private healthcare providers will be contracted by the state," DA Shadow Health Minister Siviwe Gwarube said.

On Monday, the bill was forwarded to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health for deliberation, part of the parliamentary process to pass a bill.

The committee said it would hold nationwide public hearings before presenting the bill to the National Assembly for adoption.
.

UPDATE:

Incidents like Marikana tragedy must never
happen again in South Africa: Government

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African government pledged on Friday that it would never allow incidents like the Marikana tragedy, in which dozens of miners were killed, to happen again.

Joining the nation in commemorating the events that led to the Marikana tragedy in August 2012, the government said it would work with all its partners, including business and labour, to ensure that the values underpinning democracy such as respect for human rights and the right to life are adhered to.

"Never again shall we allow such a tragedy to befall our nation," the government said in a statement.

In August 2012, 44 mineworkers were killed by police during mining unrest in Marikana near Rustenburg, North West Province.

Of the victims, 34 were shot dead on August 16 alone.

The tragedy was believed to be the worst labor-related violence in the post-apartheid era.

This tragedy will forever be ingrained in the minds of the people of South Africa, government spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

To avoid such incidents, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has strengthened its capacity of public order policing, including training a total of 3,825 members in crowd management, according to Williams.

"We have in recent times witnessed SAPS’ ability to effectively manage crowds in the interest of maintaining law and order during protests around the country," she said.

Furthermore, all criminal matters related to the Marikana tragedy are now before the courts, said Williams.

The government has also made great progress in the reparations for the victims’ families, she said.

Last year, the government paid a total of 67 million rand (about 4.4 million U.S. dollars) to the legal representatives of the families, in the finalized cases, for arrests, detention claims and for a loss of support.

With regard to compensation for general damages, the ongoing discussions between the government and representatives of the affected families will be concluded in due course, Williams said.

The government pledges its full support, in partnership with mining companies and communities, to accelerate change in the living and working conditions of mine workers, said the spokesperson.

Also on Friday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union urged the government to declare August 16 a public holiday to remember the workers killed in the Marikana tragedy.

The call was echoed by opposition Democratic Alliance Leader Mmusi Maimane who said August 16 should be declared either a public holiday or a commemorative day.
.

Situation calm in South African townships after foreign shops looting

JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) -- The situation is calm in South Africa’s Soweto townships following the looting of shops belonging to foreigners and 18 suspects were arrested, South African police said on Friday.

On Wednesday night, several shops belonging to foreigners were looted.

Gauteng police spokesperson Kay Makhubele told Xinhua that the situation is calm and they are monitoring the situation.

"The situation is calm and we are monitoring the affected areas. We have arrested 18 suspects who will be charged with public violence.

"They will appear in court soon," said Makhubele.

He condemned the looting of shops on what he blamed on opportunistic criminals.

The chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum (ADF), Vusumuzi Sibanda, said some shops are still closed due to fear.

"The situation is a bit calm with police patrolling but some shops are still closed. Some ran away to seek shelter at police stations while some went to live with friends. Some shop owners are still afraid to open shops," Sibanda said.

Sibanda said the government is not doing enough to protect foreigners who are always attacked and their property confiscated by locals. ADF is an organization of citizens of over 35 African countries whose residents stay in South Africa.
.

EARLIER REPORTS:

South African universal healthcare bill sparks heated debate

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- A universal healthcare bill designed to provide quality health care for all in South Africa has sparked a heated debate in the country, setting up obstacles for its adoption by Parliament.

The National Health Insurance (NHI) bill, submitted by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to Parliament last week, envisages a package of comprehensive health services for free at private and public health facilities as part of the government’s bid to provide more equitable access to quality health care.

A wide range of people will benefit from the bill, including inmates, refugees, permanent residents and all children in South Africa.

This will be done through the establishment of the NHI Fund.

Although the bill is at the point of being fiercely debated, the initiative has been allocated 2.11 billion rand (about 137 million U.S. dollars).

Critics say the financing model of this bill will mean the imposition of a new tax on ordinary South Africans who have already been squeezed dry by the government and cannot be subjected to yet another tax.

Several political parties and numerous bodies, including the South African Private Practitioners’ Forum, voiced scepticism about the bill, calling it unrealistic, too expensive, and would potentially damage the healthcare sector, particularly when the country is facing a financial crisis.

On Tuesday, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) sought urgent legal opinion on the constitutionality of the bill which it said would cripple the economy and health services in the country.

The party insists that the bill seeks to fundamentally alter healthcare policy in South Africa by creating a state-owned entity to consolidate all funds within the public and private health system.

This would result in billions of rand being placed in the hands of the politically connected, giving the health minister unvetted powers and in control of the entire health system, the DA argues.

Moreover, the bill completely centralizes the provision of healthcare by placing the management of all central hospitals under the national health department, which would utimately lead to the nationalization of healthcare and is a clear erosion of provincial powers, according to the party.

"This bill removes the autonomy of South Africans to choose their own health care.

"It mandates the national department of health as the sole provider of healthcare in the country while all private healthcare providers will be contracted by the state," DA Shadow Health Minister Siviwe Gwarube said.

On Wednesday, Mkhize came forward in defense of the bill, describing it as a successful model for universial healthcare in the country.

Mkhize assured that the bill will not steer the healthcare sector in a financial crisis.

"The issue is not whether there is something wrong with the private sector.

"Both the public and private sector need to be realigned and that’s what we are doing.

"And it’s not like we are taking money from the one and giving it to the other," he explained.

Mkhize accused the DA of seeking to maintain the status quo and protecting the privileged by opposing this bill.

The reality is that the country needs a much more equitable redistribution of the resources inside the same system, the minister added.

On Monday, the bill was forwarded to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Health for deliberation, part of a parliamentary process to pass a bill.

The committee will hold nationwide public hearings before presenting the bill to the National Assembly for adoption.

Committee Chairperson Sibongiseni Dhlomo called the bill "one of the equalisers of society, where those who are poor can get access to good healthcare" and "a vehicle of making every citizen have access to healthcare."

"It is a public good and addresses issues of social solidarity," Dhlomo said.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) Study Group on Health said it is pleased with the introduction of the bill.

For more than a decade, the ANC-led government has been advocating for the implementation of the NHI, based on the principle of universal health coverage, spokesperson Andile Mdleleni said.

"The NHI will bring about significant change to our society, not seen since the dawn of democracy in 1994," he said.

Mdleleni refuted claims that the NHI bill would lead to nationalization of the health sector.

"Nowhere does the word ‘nationalisation’ appear in the bill; rather the bill makes it very clear that it will purchase services from both public and private providers," Mdleleni said.

Private health care providers will continue to operate, as the NHI will not going to abolish or do away with private health providers, he added.
.

South Africa plans visa waivers for citizens
of Cuba, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- South Africa will implement visa waivers for citizens of Ghana, Cuba, and Sao Tome and Principe, to promote tourism, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Thursday.

Motsoaledi said his department is scheduled to complete negotiations with these countries by the end of August and that the implementation will follow soon thereafter.

Earlier this year, South Africa announced visa waivers for citizens of New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Starting from Thursday, travellers from these four countries will no longer require a visa to visit South Africa for holidays, conferencing and business.

"We took this decision unilaterally but we are engaging these countries to see how they can relax entry requirements for our citizens," Motsoaledi said.

"I am glad to say that Qatar has already waived visa requirements for South Africans and this will enable our people to attend Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 easier."

The Department of Home Affairs is continuously reviewing its operations to contribute to economic growth, facilitate the creation of jobs and secure the borders, the minister said.

"We are constantly reviewing our operations to ensure that we relax entry requirements without compromising our responsibility towards the safety and security of our citizens," Motsoaledi said.

Already, South Africa has waived visa requirement for citizens of 82 of the 193 countries who are members of the United Nations, including 18 African countries.

The majority of countries whose citizens can visit South Africa visa-free are among the major tourist source nations, the minister said.

"The department has already sent directives to ports of entry, airlines and our missions abroad informing them of the removal of visa requirements for nationals of these countries who wish to visit our beautiful country for tourism of business meetings," Motsoaledi said.
.

Historic Cape Cross stone returns to Namibia from Germany

WINDHOEK Namibia (Xinhua) -- The Historic Cape Cross has returned to Namibia from Germany, a government official said here Wednesday.

Absalom Absalom, public relations officer in the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, said that the Cape Cross, a stone column whose central point is crowned with a Christian cross, arrived in the country in August 2019.

The repatriation follows the request for the return of the Cape Cross stone to the Sub-Saharan nation by the Namibian government in June 2017, through its Ambassador to Germany Andreas Guibeb.

The Cape Cross is part of the collection of the Foundation German Historical Museum and has been on display in the permanent exhibition since 2006.

In 1486, the Cape Cross stone was erected by Portuguese sailors on the southwest coast of Africa (South-West Africa), on the territory of present-day Namibia.

It served as a symbol of orientation for traveling subsequent seafarers who circled the African coast.

In 1894, when South-West Africa was declared a German "protectorate", the imperial Navy took the column to Berlin.

The official handover event is tentatively slated for October this year at a site in the country’s western Erongo region, according to Absalom.

The return of the Cape Cross stone is part of the wider array of agreements and cooperation of the two governments.
.

Namibia’s Ondangwa airport to be renamed after liberation hero Toivo Ya Toivo

WINDHOEK Namibia (Xinhua) -- Namibia’s Ondangwa airport will be officially renamed to Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo, in honor of the country’s late liberation struggle hero on Aug. 22.

The airport, strategically located at the center of northern Namibia, provides links to southern Angola and additionally serves as a refueling stop for flights to Central Africa and beyond.

The official renaming event will be officiated by Namibia’s Vice President, Nangolo Mbumba, airport custodians Namibia Airports Company (NAC) said Thursday.

Kamati said NAC then set in motion the procurement process to rename the airport which will be known as Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo Airport.

"Naturally when we got the go-ahead from the shareholder, we got working and it will culminate in the special event to honor this late son of the soil," NAC Board Chairperson Leake Hangala added.

Boasting a new terminal building inaugurated in 2015, the state of the art airport houses a restaurant, bistro, curio shop, foreign exchange service, sufficient and comfortable seating, car rental facilities and automated parking management system.

Toivo Ya Toivo was a founder member of the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) and during the liberation struggle, he spent time at the Robben Island and was released in 1984.

           

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