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119 000 lose jobs in Free State during lockdown . . . but analyst says the situation is even worse



Staff Reporter

At least 119 000 people lost their  jobs between April and June in the Free State as most of the economy ground to a complete halt under the tight restrictions of the national lockdown, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has said.

In its latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Stats SA says only 638 000 people in the province were left with jobs compared to about 756 000 in the previous quarter.

However, the number of the unemployed in the province dropped by 257 000 to 215 000 from 472 000 in the first quarter.

This does not mean there were less unemployed people in the province.

The drop is only technical as there were less people fitting the official definition of unemployment because there were less people looking for employment during that period under the national lockdown.

The official unemployment rate for the province dropped from 38.4 percent to 25.3 percent.

The expanded unemployment figure was also down from 44.5 percent to 41.2 percent.

The technicality has been criticised by some experts who feel the latest jobs data is not a true reflection of the situation in the country.

Central University of Technology senior economics lecturer Mgcinazwe Zwane told The Free Stater that the figures do not make sense and should be rejected.

“I disagree with those figures . . . that’s just window dressing,” said Zwane.

“This is just a fabrication of facts. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our economy and it may take us up to five years to recover.

“Many people have lost jobs and several projects have been put on hold, so I don’t understand who they are trying to fool with such statistics. This is not the time for technicalities.”

Official unemployment refers to persons aged 15-64 years old who were not employed during the reference period but were actively looking for work or tried to start a business over the past month.

The persons were available for work or to start a business during the week of the survey.

The expanded definition of unemployment includes people that are available to work but have not made an effort to find work over the past month or are just discouraged to search.

A discouraged work-seeker is a person who was not employed during the reference period but wanted to work and was available to work or start a business.

The person would have failed to take active steps to find work over the past month because there were no jobs available in the area, was unable to find work requiring his or her skills or lost hope of finding any kind of work.

Stats SA acting chief director for labour statistics Malerato Mosiane said in a telephone interview they met with a lot of challenges when gathering the information but the figures are relevant and reflect the situation on the ground in line with the guidelines of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“It was very important that we do the survey because people wanted to know what’s happening in the country. There is nothing wrong with the figures. People can use them,” said Mosiane.

“The figures we have produced are not very different from what has been produced by other countries that have been affected by COVID-19 the same way as South Africa. We followed what the ILO has done,” she said.

Stats SA said data in this survey was collected using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing also known as CATI and not the usual face-to-face interviews due to the national lockdown.

It said as a result data could not be collected from a full sample but only from households for which they had contact numbers and they had to make several adjustments to ensure balance.

Zwane insisted that the situation in the country is desperate and urgent measures are needed to revive the economy, particularly in the Free State.

“Right now, the Free State doesn’t have any major production to write home about,” he said.

“We need to revive the mines and intensify agricultural production. The zama-zamas in Welkom should be given licences so that they can mine legally and contribute to the economy. The Northern Cape has done that and it’s working.

“We should focus on poultry and fish farming because we have the Vaal River and the Gariep Dam here.

“Poultry doesn’t require a lot of water and we can actually produce enough to export.

“Our people need long term employment. They cannot continue relying on short term projects.”

Nationally, the official unemployment rate dropped from 30.1 percent in the first quarter to 23.3 percent in the second quarter.

The expanded unemployment rate for the country increased by 2.3 percentage points to 42 percent.

Employment decreased in all sectors in the country with the formal sector losing 1.2 million or 10.8 percent while the informal sector shed 640 000 or 21.9 percent of the jobs.

Private households shed 311 000 or 23.6 percent and employment in agriculture declined by 66 000 or 7.6 percent.

There are now 14.1 million people employed in the country while 4.3 million are officially unemployed.

Using the broader unemployment definition, at least 10.3 million people are without jobs.



Masks no longer mandatory when outdoors



Staff Reporter

South Africans will no longer be required to wear masks while outdoors, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night when he gave an update on national efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wearing of masks indoors however remains mandatory.

“As before, it is mandatory to wear a cloth mask or similar covering over the nose and mouth when in public indoor spaces,” said Ramaphosa in a televised address.

“However, a mask is not required when outdoors,” he added.

“This means that we still need to wear masks when in shops, malls, offices, factories, taxes, buses, trains or any other indoor public space.

“But we do not need to wear masks when walking on the street or in an open space, when exercising outdoors or when attending an outdoor gathering.”

The president said after four waves of infection, fewer people are becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalisation.

He said there are far fewer deaths than before.

“Our scientists tell us that this is mainly because some 60 to 80 percent of the population has some form of immunity to the virus, either from previous infection or vaccination . . . we are now ready to enter a new phase in our management of the pandemic,” said Ramaphosa.

About 48 percent of all adults are believed to have received at least one vaccine dose.

Further to that, both indoor and outdoor venues can now take up to 50 percent of their capacity provided that the criteria for entrance are proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours.

“But where there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a COVID test, then the current upper limit will remain – of 1 000 people indoors and 2 000 people outdoors,” he explained.

This change to the restrictions on gatherings, according the president, will be of great benefit to the sporting, cultural, entertainment and events industries, among others.

The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral will increase from 100 to 200.

However, night vigils as well as after-funeral and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are still not allowed.

The regulations on social distancing are also being changed, requiring that a space of one metre is maintained between persons in all settings except schools.

There are also changes to the regulations on international travel.

Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.

All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.

All measures are taking effect from this Wednesday.

Ramaphosa said in deciding which restrictions to ease and which to keep in place, they  also looked to the experiences of other countries, including those where the complete lifting of restrictions has been followed by a surge in infections and deaths.

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Man gets six life terms for raping own daughter



Staff Reporter

A 36-year-old man from Clocolan has been sentenced to six life terms by the Free State High Court after he was found guilty of raping his 14-year-old daughter.

In a statement, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said Judge Pina Mathebula sentenced the father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his daughter, for raping her six times between May and July 2021.

“The victim was staying with the accused, his wife, who is her stepmother, and two other siblings,” read part of the statement issued by NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping on Thursday.

“In May 2021, the accused told his wife that his late brother told him in a dream ‘to get rid of a tokoloshe that was inside the victim’. The very same night of the alleged dream, the accused raped the victim. The last rape incident took place on 25 July 2021,” added the statement.

The court, sitting in Ladybrand, heard that the wife tried to reprimand him but he assaulted her.

As if not enough, he overpowered and raped the victim, despite her cries and his wife’s reprimands.

He threatened to kill both of them if they were to tell anyone of what he did.

A day later, the accused’s sister visited the family and the wife told her what the husband had done to the child.

The sister reported his brother to the police and he was arrested.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Advocate Moipone Moroka submitted a victim impact report facilitated by Bulelani Mothabeng in which the victim said that she thanks her aunt for coming to her rescue because if it was not for her, she would still be her father’s sex slave.

Moroka further argued that the scourge of violence against women and children has reached an alarming proportion and can be described as a pandemic.

“What aggravates the matter is that the father raped his own daughter multiple times over a period of three months and this means he had ample opportunity to reflect on his actions, but he continued betraying the trust his daughter had in him,” said Moroka.

The father was sentenced to six life sentences for rape and two years for assault and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

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Premier mourns journalist



Staff Reporter

Premier Sisi Ntombela has described the late SABC journalist Thabo Katsande as a disciplined, dedicated and hardworking man.

She said this in her special tribute to Katsande, who was based in Bloemfontein, during a memorial service held at the Rose Hall at the Mangaung Metropolitan offices on Thursday.

The journalist passed away at a Pretoria hospital last Saturday following a short illness.

“The Thabo I knew was focused on his work,” said an emotional Ntombela.

“The Thabo I knew was passionate about his trade and wanted to see journalism, particularly in the Free State, grow in leaps and bounds,” she added.

The premier took the opportunity to urge people to value their work and strive to improve their communities as the province is faced with a high unemployment rate.

“We live in an era where some people do not value their jobs . . . and a sense of entitlement has consumed them. Thabo’s work ethic was admirable,” she pointed out.

Ntombela described Katsande as a fearless and fair journalist who showed both the good and the bad through his work.

“Through his work, Thabo helped us to tell . . . the Free State story,” she said.

“He captured the minds of the people with the way he told our stories, the good and the bad.

“The beautiful and the not so beautiful – Thabo told it all, without fear or favour.

“The media fraternity has lost a giant and . . . it will be poorer without him.

“No longer shall we see that charismatic man running around with a camera looking for that perfect shot.”

Katsande will be laid to rest in Bluemgumbosch, eastern Free State, this Saturday.

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