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Teenage pregnancies shoot up in eastern Free State



Staff Reporter

Elizabeth Ross Hospital in the eastern Free State town of QwaQwa reported 469 deliveries by girls aged 14 to 19 years old between April 2020 and March this year, the provincial health department said.

And from April this year to mid-June, the same hospital reported 109 deliveries by girls within the ages of 15 to 19 years.

The Free State Department of Health recently revealed the statistics in QwaQwa during a campaign aimed at discouraging teenage pregnancies particularly by those still in school under the theme ‘Responsibilities of the Young Mother Project’.

“The purpose of this project is to discourage schoolgirls from being sexually active at an early age, without using protection,” said provincial health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi.

He said failure to use reproductive health methods by some youths often leads to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.

In one of the activities of the ‘Responsibilities of the Young Mother Project’, the females simulate scenarios where a young girl is expected to take care of dolls – symbolising the responsibility of nursing or taking care of a baby – while the same girl needs to do school work including preparing for examinations.

The project, which targets girls between 14 and 19 years of age, is set to be rolled out to all districts in the province.

It has however been disrupted several times by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among its objectives, the project wants to: establish contributory factors to teenage pregnancy from both boys and girls; establish the factors contributing to early sexual practices; and educate the youth on the benefits of education and delayed sexual engagements.

It also wants to address the barriers to accessing contraceptives or youth services at health facilities.

But the health department is prohibited by the Basic Education Policies to educate school learners on the use of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Lumka Mangoejane, the provincial director for Women’s Health, Youth, Adolescents and Neonatal Services, told The Free Stater that information to empower sexually active learners is quite limited in schools.

“The department of education should advocate for the use of these services in the school environment,” she said.

“They should also engage parents because, as the department of health, we are in a position to provide some of the services without parental consent.”

“However, the department of health has to ensure that we increase the number youth friendly services in our healthcare facilities so that the learners have access to these services whenever they need them outside school hours,” added Mangoejane.

The spokesperson for the Free State Department of Education, Howard Ndaba, acknowledged that the department closely monitors what learners are taught in school.

He was however quick to point out they are in constant collaborations with the health department on various issues and that working together on agreed topics on reproductive health shouldn’t be a challenge.

Youth advisory platform warns that sex can be fun but it can also be confusing or even scary.

The organisation advises that the decision to have sex is a very personal one, and that if one doesn’t feel ready for it, there is no need to rush.

It gives four reasons why waiting before having sex could be helpful to the youths, namely:

  • It gives you time to explore and understand your body on your own and to learn what you like and don’t like. 
  • It gives you time to decide what sex means to you and what you want from a sexual relationship once you’re ready.
  • It gives you time to become more self-confident. When you do decide to have sex, you are able to tell your partner what you like and don’t, and talk about protection from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • It means you don’t have to worry about things like HIV, STIs and unplanned pregnancies. If you’re not sure you’re ready to deal with using contraception and HIV/STI prevention, it may be better to delay having sex for now.

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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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