STATEMENT BY THE PREMIER OF KWAZULU-NATAL, HON MR S. ZIKALALA, ON THE OCCASION OF A MEDIA BRIEFING TO PROVIDE AN UPDATE ON COVID – 19 AND OTHER MATTERS, AT ETHEKWINI DISASTER CENTRE, 11 OOCTOBER 2020

 

KZN MEC for Health, Hon. Ms Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu,

Government Officials Present,

Members of the Media,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

INTRODUCTION AND WELCOME

We once again extend a warm welcome to you, members of the media, as we continue to assess the impact of COVID – 19, as well update the public on other matters of importance. We once again thank you for partnering with us in all our efforts in this regard.

FATAL UNDERBERG ROAD CRASH

We have just returned from our sombre visit to the Mndali family, who are still battling to come to terms with the devastation of losing 13 family members during a horrific road crash yesterday.

The deceased family members, including were travelling back home after attending a traditional ceremony, when their minibus left the road, and crashed at Kilmon between Underberg and Bulwer yesterday. It is believed that the driver lost control after failing to negotiate bend.

As a caring Government, we felt that it would be prudent for us to go and lend our support to the family at this difficult time. Of course, we cannot bring back their loved ones, but the basic tenets of Ubuntu dictate that, at times of such tragedy, those who are engulfed by pain should never be left to bear the heavy burden of such grief alone.

We have also mobilised a team of social workers from the Department of Social Development to assist the remaining family members with counselling services, so that they may begin to cope with their untold grief.

Furthermore, at a time like this, as leaders of society, it is proper for us to ask ourselves what could have been done to avoid such an incident.

Since the commencement of level 1, we have lost over 106 people including last night accident.  The trend is that crashes have increased as we downscaled to lower levels.  There are 77 car crashes reported since 21 September to date.  Some of the vehicles involve are high carrying capacity vehicles such as mini-bus taxes and high impact vehicles such as trucks.  We are still licking our wounds from the Wartberg accident (13) and then last night accident (13).

As we continue adopting a hard line to enforce safety on the roads, which we will strengthen even more as we approach the holiday festive season, we once again appeal to motorists to play their part by adhering to the rules of the road. No matter how many law enforcement officers we may deploy, we can never be able to police each and every aspect of motorists’ behaviour. At some point, we all need to take individual responsibility for our actions when we get behind the wheel.

We all have a responsibility to move away from reckless practices such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, overloading, and failing to keep our vehicles road worthy, because they always have disastrous results. While we will continue to do our utmost to uphold the law, but motorists have a responsibility to play their part and meet us halfway.

 

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AT KWASIZABANTU MISSION

We have also noted with concern the emergence of allegations of improper conduct and victimisation of members of the community at KwaSizabantu Mission in Kranskop. As part of our commitment to the protection of basic human rights, we have appointed a team led by Human Settlements MEC Ms Peggy Nkonyeni to embark on a fact-finding mission and assist with the ongoing investigation. We also pledge our full support to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), a Chapter Nine institution, which is on the ground, leading the investigation. We want to assure the public that if, indeed, there are human rights violations and abuses, Government will not hesitate to act decisively, without fear of favour, on offenders.  We also plead with all involve to cooperate with the processes established to find the truth over these allegations.

However, we strongly believe that the ban of products from KwaSizabantu by some retail traders is unfair and misinformed. It is wrong for retailers to ban such products while the investigation is still ongoing. But more importantly most of the alleged human rights abuse happened sometimes ago. Logically, this ban will punish those who are managing the institution for crimes committed by their predecessors. The worst to come will be a devastating effect of loss of jobs and perpetuation of poverty.

As provincial government we will seek to engage with all retailers who have taken such decision to withdraw this ban. But allow the investigations and prosecution of those who might have committed such heinous acts by law enforcement authorities. 

 

COVID REPORT: BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE PAST THREE WEEKS

 

DEVELOPMENTS OVER THE PAST THREE WEEKS (16 September to date)

Although we continue to be the second highest province countrywide in terms of laboratory-confirmed cases, we have nevertheless observed a decline in the number of new cases in the past 3 weeks. The actual number of COVID – 19 cases for week 39 was 980; for week 40 it was 875; and for week 41 it was 682.

The number of new cases declined by 11% between week 39-40. A further 22% decrease was observed between weeks 40-41. This also coincides with the weekly cumulative incidence risk. For week 39, the incidence risk was nine cases per 100 000; during week 40 it was eight cases per 100 000; and during week 41 it was six cases per 100 000.

We are indeed pleased to report that the Province is observing a steady decline in incidence risk.

Deaths

The number of new deaths received weekly declined by 42% for week 39-40.  A further 30% decline was observed between week 40-41. The analysis was done using the date of death of the deceased, not the date of reporting. The case fatality rate remains at 2%, and the mortality rate is 27 deaths per 100 000 population.

Testing rate

KwaZulu-Natal Province has been among the provinces that have observed a consistent percentage of people testing positive in the past three weeks. In the past week (week 40), the province was the second highest in terms of tests conducted countrywide (16%), following Gauteng (31%). The percentage-testing positive was between <10% for KwaZulu-Natal. This means that the positivity rate remains lower as compared to other provinces.

  • Although the number of cases is declining weekly, we are urging citizens of this province to continue adhering to lockdown regulations, such as:
    • Wearing of masks
    • Hand washing and sanitization
    • Social distancing
    • Avoiding gatherings
  • The province should and will continue with community and facility screening and testing so that we may not miss cases.

*NB: According to resurgence plan, the province should consider the following:

Under control

A less than <10% increase or a decrease in new COVID-19 cases compared to preceding 7 days

Alert

A greater than >10% increase and <20% increase in new COVID-19 cases compared to preceding 7 days

Resurgence

A greater than >20% increase in new COVID-19 cases compared to preceding 7 days

 

Distribution of cases and deaths by district, KwaZulu-Natal, 5 Mar-10 Oct 2020

District

New cases

%. New cases

Total cases

%.Total

Total deaths

%. Total deaths

Case Fatality rate (%)

EThekwini

53

39.3

56 538

47.0

1 449

48.2

2.6

ILembe

19

14.1

6 705

5.6

113

3.8

1.7

UMgungundlovu

16

11.9

16 358

13.6

444

14.8

2.7

UThukela

2

1.5

5 102

4.2

138

4.6

2.7

King Cetshwayo

19

14.1

10 307

8.6

265

8.8

2.6

UGu

5

3.7

4 947

4.1

111

3.7

2.2

Amajuba

0

0.0

6 845

5.7

201

6.7

2.9

UMkhanyakude

8

5.9

2 706

2.2

70

2.3

2.6

Harry Gwala

2

1.5

2 412

2.0

59

2.0

2.4

Zululand

9

6.7

4 920

4.1

68

2.3

1.4

UMzinyathi

2

1.5

2 583

2.1

86

2.9

3.3

Unallocated

0

0.0

872

0.7

0

0.0

0.0

Total

135

100.0

120 295

100.0

3 004

100.0

2.5

 

 

Infected health care workers

A total of 7 730 health care workers (HCWs) were infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Above 70% of the infected HCWs have recovered. Of the total infected, 68 (1%) (Case fatality rate) succumbed to the disease.

The majority of the infected health care workers (IHCW) were nurses (58%) and lay counsellors (35%). Among the IHCWs, 76% work in the public sector facilities. Most of the deaths among the IHCWs occurred in the public sector (82%), with a case fatality rate of 1%.

Hospital admissions/isolations

On 10 October 2020, the province had 477 patients admitted in both private (n=358, 75%) and public (n=119, 25%) hospitals. Of those admitted, 73 patients (15%) required intensive care services. Private hospitals had more patients in ICU (93%, n=68) than public facilities (7%, n=5). Among those who required intensive care, 30% (n=22) were ventilated. Other patients, 12% (n=56) were admitted in high care units in both private (86%, n=48) and public (14=8) facilities.

Recoveries

The overall proportion of recoveries for the province is 93%. Harry Gwala District is still experiencing challenges due to an influx of cases from the Eastern Cape, which has been affecting their recovery rate and incidence risk.

 

JUSTICE, CRIME PROVENTION SINCE LEVEL 1

We are quite pleased that despite the relaxing of the lockdown to level 1, crime in KwaZulu-Natal is generally still much lower when compared to the same period last year.

For the period 21 September 2020 to 10 October 2020, we have recorded a 4.2% decrease in Contact Crimes, which includes murder, attempted murder, sexual offences and assaults. When compared to the same period last year.

Contact Related Crimes, which include arson and malicious damage to property, showed a 3.5% decrease. Property Crimes, which include burglary, theft of motor vehicle and stock theft, registered a 9.3% decrease while other serious crimes such as shoplifting, theft and fraud recorded a 5.4% decease. Because of the reduction in various sub-categories of crime, the province saw a 5.8% decrease in the 17 community reported priority crimes.

The picture though is not all that rosy, with murders and attempted murders rearing their ugly heads.  KwaZulu-Natal continues to be regarded as the murder capital of the country. Something is wrong with us if we continue to kill each other with no remorse. Over the past few weeks, KwaZulu-Natal has captured the news headlines for the number of indiscriminate killings of men, women and children. In KZN, we are fighting two pandemics and there is something that urgently needs to be done to change the culture of violence that is claiming arguably as many lives as COVID-19.

On Saturday, 26 September 2020, 9 lives were lost in two separate incidents that occurred hours apart at KwaNdengezi. Although they may not be related, it is very alarming that these incidents occurred in the same neighbourhood on the same day. Detectives from the Provincial Organised Crime Unit arrested four men and seized two firearms at KwaNdengezi, following the execution style murders of four young men in one of the incidents. We are told that these young men were killed as they were suspected of being involved in stock theft. Something must really be wrong with us as a society if we value our possessions more than we value human lives. I am told that Detectives from the Provincial Organised Crime Unit are still pursuing those that killed a group of five others in the same area on the same day.

On 23 September 2020, four-year-old Minenhle Mhlongo was left in the care of a relative while her mother went to work. When her mother returned home, she was informed that the little girl had gone missing and was nowhere to be found.

On 24 September 2020 at 06:00, the body of Minenhle was found in the bushes near her home at M Section in KwaMashu. She had sustained stab wounds to her body as well as a head injury. Police must be commended for working tirelessly realize justice for the little girl. A 15-year-old relative was arrested for the murder and detectives recovered a weapon that was used to commit the offence. The suspect is currently on trial.

On 29 September 2020 at 12:30, the bodies of two young girls were found in the bushes at P Section in KwaMashu. They had sustained gunshot wounds to the head. They remained unidentified as they were not reported missing. Following an exhaustive investigation, Detectives were able to locate the relatives of the deceased. The deceased have been identified as Erin King (18) from Newlands East and Xolile Mdletshe (15) from C Section in KwaMashu. Detectives from the Provincial Investigative Unit are still probing this matter to understand why these young women, who were in the prime of their lives, were killed so brutally.

On 30 September 2020 at 10:30, Phoenix police received a report of a murder in Mount Royal. They proceeded to the scene where they found the body of a 34-year-old woman. She had been hacked to death with a bush knife by a man who was known to her. Her two-year-old child was also savagely assaulted and passed away while receiving medical attention. A bush knife was found at the scene. The suspect had fled the scene into the nearby thicket before police arrived. However; police worked tirelessly throughout the night searching for the man involved in the gruesome murders and arrested the 62-year-old in the early hours of the following morning.

YOUNG PEOPLE CAUGHT UP IN GANGSTERISM

Another challenge that is facing the province is groups of children that are masquerading as gangs and running amok in our communities. One such area that is facing such a challenging is in Osizweni, where groups of school-children from the area have become involved in criminality. Police say that these children had a fallout following a soccer match and have enlisted the assistance of known criminals to assist in their bitter rivalry.

What baffles me most is that four people have lost their lives between August and September as a result of feuding between these school children. I am told that there have been arrests in three of these murders. Police in the area have engaged with the groups and their parents in an attempt to resolve the conflict. No fewer than 45 dangerous weapons, which includes knives and pangas, as well as two firearms, were seized during police operations.

We are concerned that parents seem to have relinquished their responsibility to instil discipline in their children to authorities. With all criminality, it starts while the perpetrators are young; and if we as parents can instil good values in our children at a young age, we will not be facing some of the challenges we are currently experiencing.

TOURISM:

While many industry stakeholders are upbeat about the economic recovery process following the move to Alert Level 1, we are pleased to report a number of positive developments in the tourism sector.

Among these developments are the fact that:

  • One of KZN’s luxurious internationally-operated resort hotels, Fairmont Zimbali Resort, entered into a business rescue process. The five-star Hotel was effectively placed under administration on Wednesday, 16 September 2020.
  • Tourism KZN, Trade & Investment KZN and Enterprise Ilembe are in discussions with the hotel owners in seeking an investor and ensuring the safeguarding of jobs. There are currently five international investors bidding to buy the resort.
  • While Emirates Airlines had announced it was postponing its scheduled arrival in Durban on the 4th October as a result of health protocols for cabin crew, the matter was resolved with the Department of Health following intervention by the Government of KZN, and the airline reinstated its Durban route, landing on Thursday, 8th October.
  • Qatar Airways has also resumed its Durban route on the 4th October.
  • Furthermore, our hotel bed occupancy rate has remained steady, with Central Durban at 35%, Umhlanga at 65%, Bluff at 25%, Westville at 30%, Amanzimtoti at 30%; Ilembe at 60%, Ugu at 30%, and Umkhanyakude at 30%.

 

CONCLUSION,

EVER-LINGERING THREAT OF A SECOND WAVE OF COVID – 19 INFECTIONS

We wish to remind our fellow compatriots that Alert Level 1 is still part of the lockdown.  New cases are still being reported and we are still seeing deaths.  The vaccine has not been found as yet.

We urge all citizens to:

-           Wear a face mask

-           Wash our hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitiser; and

-           Maintain social distancing of at least 1,5 metres between ourselves and other people.

We are extremely grateful to all citizens who have abided by these precautions. They are the reason we do not talk of a complete disaster today. We implore all others to do the same.

 

I thank you