EC GOVERNMENT’S MEDIA STATEMENT

Good morning and welcome to our Covid-19 weekly media briefing. We enter this week with heavy hearts as we have lost 466 people in our province to Covid-19 in a space of 9 days. This is a painful reality and experience to these families and to those of us who knew each of those we have lost to this virus. Once again we extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the deceased and we wish them strength in this difficult period.

THE FALL OF ANOTHER HEALTHCARE ASSET

The passing of our 466 fellow citizens takes the Covid-19 fatalities in our province to 2266. Age, comorbidities in Diabetes, Hypertension, HIV, Asthma, Cardiac Diseases, Cancer and Obesity all contribute to this sharp rise in mortality. Besiyithethile lento yomgcineni ukuba lentsholongwane iyabathanda, yiyo lonto ithi yosele kubantu abanezifo aphila nazo. Siyaphinda kwakhona sicela abantu abanezifo abahamba nazo balumke nangakumbi bona, bazigcine ezindlini. Yiyo lonto sithe abasebenzi baka rhulumente abanezizifo mabasebenzele ezindlini. Among the deceased are 85 Health Care Workers who have been on the frontlines saving the lives of our people in our healthcare facilities. The relentless corona virus struck again at the heart of our healthcare fraternity, this time claiming the life of Professor Lungile Pepeta who had served in the public health sector diligently for 21 years after receiving his medical degree from Walter Sisulu University.

What pains me the most about his sudden passing is that I was in constant communication with him. He was in good spirit and he was assuring me that he will defeat the virus and get back to the frontlines. Even when I was asking him to take it easy and focus on his recovery, Professor Pepeta wanted to know about developments in the work we are doing to fight the pandemic and offered advice from the hospital bed he was lying in because his purpose in life was to save the lives of others.

It seems as if the corona virus is trying to distract our stated mission as this sixth administration, of utilising the best human capital of this province to accelerate socio-economic development in our province. I say this because the passing of Professor Pepeta follows that of Dr Monde Mnyande who was a Board member at Coega and one of the Commissioners in our Provincial Planning Commission and the passing of Rev.Dr Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni after whom we named the VWSA Field Hospital.

We roped in Professor Pepeta to serve in our panel of Experts on Covid-19 and this is where he was consistently providing valuable inputs passionately every week, so that we can make informed decisions. We were still in the infancy stage of working together with him and other health experts to address healthcare provision challenges to ensure that post Covid-19, we have an improved healthcare system throughout our province. He was an extra ordinary human being who did extra ordinary work in his short life. That is why we applied to President Cyril Ramaphosa for him to accord Professor Pepeta a send-off befitting of his extra ordinary deeds. The President has approved our request and Professor Pepeta will buried under the ambit of a Special Provincial Official Funeral Category 2 in Mbizana on Wednesday. Government is working closely with the family on logistics. May his servant soul rest in peace.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19

This week we want to highlight three developments that we feel are critical to ensure our success in the fight against Covid-19 in our province. The first one relates to ensuring clean governance. As you all know government has made special allocation of funds during this period to save the lives of our people from this pandemic. These resources are used to procure PPE for frontline workers and to improve infrastructure in our health facilities including availability of essentials supplies. There have been concerns in the public about procurement of goods and services related to Covid-19 with claims of suspected corruption and beneficiation of companies with links to political and administrative leadership.

Since the start of April, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government has paid invoices to the value of more than R582 million to companies for PPE, renovations in our healthcare facilities and provision of essential supplies. We have taken a decision to publish the names of the companies that have benefited from our procurement and the names of their directors on the website of the Provincial Treasury.

By publishing the list, we are introducing a new culture of transparency in our Supply Chain Management. The people on whose behalf we serve have been calling for transparency, we are obliging to their request. From now onwards we aim to do regular publication of the transactions the provincial government makes with companies. This will give the public an opportunity to follow every rand and cent of the public resources we spend. It will also lift the veil on who benefits from procurement in the province because there is a perception out there that government spending benefits family members of government leaders and their friends. Others argue that government spending only benefits companies outside the province. Now that the list is published the task is to separate facts from fiction, reality from myths and truth from distortions.

We therefore encourage the public to scrutinise the published list and give law enforcement agencies any information about wrong doing and corruption they are aware of in the awarding of contracts to the listed companies.

Keeping the rand circulating inside the province

Out of 611 service providers appointed for mainly PPE related procurement, 497 (73 per cent) of suppliers were Eastern Cape based suppliers. Five government departments spent over R 1.1 billion and out of this money R 875.4 million went to the Eastern Cape Suppliers in-line with the Local Economic Development Procurement Framework.

One of the things that worries us about some of the companies on the published list, is that many of the companies might have purchased the goods they supplied from companies outside the province which defeats our local economic development agenda. We do not blame the businesses though, because there is limited manufacturing capacity of goods in our province hence we are resolute in our endeavours of growing the two successful Special Economic Zones (Coega and ELSEZ), accelerating the establishment of the Wild Coast SEZ and the revitalisation of Industrial Parks in our province to grow our manufacturing base.

Ensuring accountable leadership

Linked to the publishing of the list of companies that have benefited from Covid19 procurement we have taken a further step inside government to conduct lifestyle audit of key leaders in government. This will help us to know the real sources of income for all decision makers. We cannot only rely on the DPSA disclosure process only, not that we don’t trust that process. We have approached the State Security Agency to conduct independent lifestyle audits in our administration to complement the DPSA disclosure process. The more mechanisms, the merrier to prevent and stop the rot of corruption in government. Initially, the lifestyle audit will be conducted on the Premier, MECs, DG, HODs, DDGs, CFOs and all Chief Directors and or Directors of Supply Chain Management Units in the provincial administration.
In the long run, these measures will be extended to other Senior Managers and those in the middle management levels.
We want to make sure that everyone who makes decisions or recommends decisions on procurement of goods and services will have their lifestyle audited. We call on every person who occupies the positions I have just mentioned to cooperate with this process and to disclose correct information with honesty. Iyakubanceda abantu lonto kuba elaSebe le State Security libona emfihlakalweni.

Unity with business, our strength

The second development we bring you today relates to our continuing and phenomenal partnerships with the business sector. The business sector without really classifying it on a scale of Big or SMMEs, has been our pillar of strength in the fight against this virus. Not only have they continued to keep paying salaries utilising the UIF, many businesses are providing food to the most vulnerable in our communities, while others are supplying PPE.

Today Mercedes-Benz SA is joining these patriotic companies in their humanitarian gesture by donating much-needed personal protective equipment for the war against Covid-19. What we did not expect are (4) vehicles that will be used by our officials to do their field work on Covid-19. Our fight against the virus is now powered by yet another reputable good corporate citizen with German roots.

We appreciate this helping hand because as government we cannot fight this pandemic alone. For 70 years MBSA has called SA, and particularly the Eastern Cape home and we are hopeful that our partnership will continue for 70 more years – long after most of us have gone.

We announced last week that we expect our infection rate to grow more than double in the months to come because the storm is not over yet. The donation of 3D printed face shields, surgical masks, hand sanitisers by Mercedes Benz SA, will help us to prevent more infections in our healthcare workers. More than 5000 Health Care Workers tested positive for the virus and this requires us to prioritise their protection. If we do not do that there will be a disaster in our hospitals with no healthcare workers to care for the sick.

PROGRESS ON THE WORK OF THE PMU

The third development we bring you this week relates to progress on the work of the Project Management Unit. The Deputy Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka was in our province last week and media reports of her visit are highlighting the very same issues of an ailing health system that Dr Zungu and her team identified. That is why we did not hesitate to set up the PMU and gave Dr Zungu the responsibility to lead the PMU so that it can find a cure for our ailing health system. I am impressed by the teams work ethic so far and their deliverables. Into ebesingazoyenza kutshayela ingxaki zempilo apha ephondweni sizifihle emehlweni abantu endaweni yokufuna uncedo lokuzilungisa. Ibizakuba kudlala ngempilo zabantu beliphondo ukwenza njalo.

It would also have been a betrayal of the mandate we have been given by the people of this province. We can safely say we are a step ahead but the insights in the report of the Deputy Public Protector will definitely assist the PMU in its work.

As you all know the PMU is here to respond to the health challenge of Covid-19. The health challenge they are here to fight is showing signs of vulnerability as we are consistently observing positive declines in trends across the province. Our major development is that more than 77 000 people have defeated the virus. That means our recovery rate is now 93.9 %, a phenomenal rise from the 52 % we were at on the1st of July. We also see a consistent decrease in the number of new cases per day which is still below 1000. For instance yesterday we only had 177 new cases. This has been the case for some time now even when testing was done at a large scale.

There is absolutely no strain in our testing labs as they continue to produce 90 % test results within 72 hours. We now have only 2 773 active cases in the Eastern Cape. From these numbers we can deduce that the end of our nightmare might be closer than we anticipated. Our effort to fight this enemy has been reinforced by another 10 Cuban brigades who have recently joined their compatriots in our Province, we welcome them with warm hearts as they bring more experience on the importance of primary health care.

Today, we want to give credit to the local JOCs headed by Mayors which we have changed to Ward Based Rapid Response Teams for being on the ground every day ensuring that our intervention programme yield positive results in our communities. We also want to credit the role that is played by individual people in our communities who continue to adhere to protocols of wearing masks, sanitising and washing hands with soap and who maintain social distance. The cooperation of the majority of our people has been nothing short of magical during this time. They agreed to the postponement of the tradition of uLwaluko and saved the lives of young boys who would have undergone the rite of passage in June. They also postponed festivities such as weddings and traditional ceremonies that are done to appease ancestors to save lives. We applaud the role played by traditional leaders in convincing families to adhere to our requests for the postponement of these activities.

Our efforts would have been futile without the participation of various stakeholders such as leaders of political parties, business, religious fraternity, academics, traditional leaders, labour and civic society in our Extended Command Council meetings. We can safely say victory is certain now because of our collective collaborative efforts.

We are working around the clock to resource our hospitals. Bulk Oxygen has been commissioned in Butterworth Hospital. This makes the Butterworth Hospital the First district hospital to have a bulk oxygen tank in the province. Installation of Oxygen tanks at Sir Henry Eliot and Mthatha General Hospitals is expected to be complete by August 14.

We have also acquired 100 high- low patient beds that will be distributed in facilities around Amathole and BCM and 614 general ward beds that will be distributed to Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, Joe Gqabi and Chris Hani. Critically, 90 Patients monitors have been received and will be distributed to all Tertiary, Regional and big district hospitals.

Finalisation of staffing norms in conjunction with the National Department of Health for the Field Hospitals have been concluded and balances needs with affordability. An additional 174 appointments were made last week bringing the total number to 7 174 against the planned 7 652 posts against the Covid-19 conditional grant (93.7%).

The PMU team is now focusing of training and awareness creation on the Covid19 response to ensure critical capacity at point of service delivery, particularly targeted training on infection control processes (ICP). Employment relations have generally stabilised with the provision of PPE and the introduction of standard operating procedures (SOPs) relating to COVID-19. This week the team is working with National DoH to explore feasibility of the deployment of qualified nurses who are presently undergoing further training at COVID-19 sites during the surge. The team is also focusing on rapid recruitment for outstanding Covid19 posts.

I indicated earlier that we are entrenching transparency in government during this sixth administration, I wish to remind the media that the Budget allocation for the Health Covid-19 response in our province is just over R2,5 billion.

The breakdown thereof: is R800 million for PPEs & consumables; R163 million for testing & tracing; R183 million for ICU Beds; R190 million for Oxygen; R995 million for Infrastructure (field hospitals); R181 million for contractual staffing; R175 million for contractual community health workers and R12 million for foreign specialists support. Through the prudent use of these financial resources we aim to save lives and improve the standard of healthcare provision in our province now and beyond this pandemic.

To the people of our province; the loved ones, friends and colleagues we have lost left a needling pain in our lives, a gaping hole in our hearts, an empty space in our community. We are in sorrow. We are in pain.

We have to heal and be strong for those in our care. We have to beat this virus, we must kick it to the curb. We saw how 93.9% people in our province who were infected by the virus recovered from it, and their recovery must motivate those still infected and inspire them to recover.

Lastly, we want to join the entire nation in extending our message of condolences to the Mabena Family, and the Creative industry in general for the passing of “the jammer” Bob Mabena yesterday. Bob Mabena is one of the radio Personalities who made the radio medium attractive to multitudes of listeners. When he graced our TV screens, in him black youth saw their own selves and dared to dream. He was the pathfinder for the current generation of black radio and television presenters. His Voice behind that Microphone is off, but his legendary voice will remain etched in our minds. May his soul rest in peace.

Thank you.

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