The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU) notes the announcement of the extension of the National State of Disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa following a special sitting of Cabinet that considered the recommendations of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meeting.

The speech by the President reiterated the analysis of our National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held on the 30th and 31st October 2020 that the move to Alert level 1 of the lockdown does not mean the virus is gone and that our members are free from danger. Our analysis was underpinned by the growing number of infections especially in the Nelson Mandela Metro area in the Eastern Cape and other parts of the country. New infections and a second wave would mean that more people would need medical help and hospitalisation while most healthcare facilities are still not ready to deal with a large influx of admissions.

Most of our members and workers are still faced with the intermittent supply of quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). For example, earlier this week our members at the Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg were fighting with management over the shortage of PPEs and the protracted storage of COVID-19 dead bodies longer than they should be stored in the hospital morgue. While it is every individual’s responsibility to ensure that they are safe from the virus, it is however, the responsibility of government to ensure that our healthcare system is ready to deal with a second wave and to be in a position to protect frontline workers. NEHAWU will continue to hold government and private healthcare service providers accountable when they drop the ball. The protection and defence of our members and workers against COVID-19 still remains a top priority for the national union.

The President also announced the expansion of community screening and testing especially in hotspots areas like Lejweleputswa and Mangaung in the Free State, Frances Baard and Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, and the Garden Route and Cape Town metro in the Western Cape. During the hard lockdown this job was spearheaded by Community Healthcare Workers. Currently, these workers are on strike fighting for full time employment and benefits. In his last address on the 16th September 2020 the President made a commitment to absorb 6000 Community Healthcare Workers. Even though this number was substantial lower than the more 50 000 absorptions of Community Healthcare Workers promised by the 2019 General Election manifesto commitments of the African National Congress (ANC), we are yet to see any fulfilment of these commitments. These workers are infuriated by the continuous empty promises by our government including the slave wages and horrible working conditions they are subjected to. If government is serious about increasing screening and testing then they need to move with speed in absorbing these workers. In the meantime, the strike will continue indefinitely until all our demands are met. 

While we appreciate the symbolic gestures in remembrance of all those who have departed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and gender-based violence which includes the letting the national flag fly at half-mast throughout the country from 6am to 6pm from Wednesday 25 November to Sunday 29 November 2020. We, however, believe that we need more proactive actions in protecting women against gender based violence. Perpetrators continue to feel free to abuse women and children because they know that police are soft on them. Our people are tired of the lip service by the President and our government. Gender based violence continue to rise unabated while government continues to try act like their doing something tangible to end violence directed at women and children. While government remembers workers who have lost their lives to the virus they have an opportunity to do right by those who are still holding the fort by paying them a danger allowance or a moral incentive including implementing the last leg of the 2018 wage agreement.

Lastly, the recently announced breakthrough in vaccine trials should not prompt complacency and recklessness. This is not a time to let our guards down as we have seen an aggressive resurgence of the virus in Europe and other parts of the world. In this regard, we call on all South Africans to continue to exercise and follow best practices and ways to avoid getting infected by the coronavirus including staying at home, observing social distance, wearing masks, and washing hands with soap for 20 seconds or using alcohol based sanitisers. Our overstretched healthcare system needs all of us to strictly comply and adhere to the orders, regulations and protocols of level 1. As we head towards the festive season we need to remain vigilant and play our part in averting new infections.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha (General Secretary) at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso (Deputy General Secretary) at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba (NEHAWU National Spokesperson) at 082 455 2500 or email: