Media release

Media briefing by GCIS CEO on Government food interventions in Zimbabwe

05 December 2008

5 December 2008

The South African Government continues to be concerned about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, particularly the food and humanitarian crisis.

As we announced yesterday, the President will be convening a meeting of key South African Ministers to consider possible assistance that can be provided by the South African government to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the neighbouring country. The Ministers of Finance, The Presidency, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Land Affairs will be part of the meeting. The Directors General of these Ministries have already met to consider the possible humanitarian assistance that could be provided to the people of Zimbabwe in a non-partisan manner.

Reverend Frank Chikane will lead a delegation of South African officials to visit Zimbabwe on Monday. The purpose of the visit will be: to assess the situation on the ground; to determine the level of assistance required and to consult with the representatives of the various stakeholders in Zimbabwe on how a multi-stakeholder distribution and monitoring mechanism could be set up. The SADC secretariat has been invited join the delegation to visit.

During the visit to Zimbabwe, the South African officials will be investigating ways to ensure that the multi-stakeholder distribution channel and monitoring processes are done in a non-partisan manner. The following stakeholders will be consulted: government officials, agricultural unions, churches, NGO’s and the international donor organisations. This process will be aimed at ensuring that the humanitarian assistance is delivered in a non-partisan way and that the beneficiaries of the aid are the ordinary Zimbabweans.

On their return from Zimbabwe, the team will make recommendations to the Ministerial Team that will be convened by President Motlanthe during the course of next week.

The President and the Ministers will then decide on the humanitarian aid that will be provided by the South African government to the people of Zimbabwe. An announcement will be made during the course of next week. The South African government will continue to do everything possible to implement humanitarian measures to support Zimbabweans who have crossed our borders to seek assistance. These measures include the following:

  • R500 000 worth of medical supplies will be made available to health facilities in Zimbabwe via the World Health Organisation. These include chlorine tablets and body bags.
  • At least three South African companies have pledges to donate R700 000 worth of supplies to Zimbabwe which includes tents, beds and blankets
  • A dehydration centre has been established at the show grounds
  • The South African Military Health Services will deploy additional health personnel to Musina
  • Environmental health officers will be deployed in communities that are close to the border to help communities on how to prevent the spread of cholera

A national action plan for response to the cholera outbreak has been circulated to all stakeholders. A list of contingency stock of cholera treatment supplies and other materials had been prepared and is ready for procurement.

An action plan for the Musina health cluster has been developed and sent to the national Multi-sectoral committee. It includes infection control and treatment of South African patients.

The South African government will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe who are coming over into South Africa to seek medical and other forms of assistance. Measures are also being put in place to prevent the spread of cholera inside our borders. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is continuing to render technical expertise to the Beitbridge District Council in (Zimbabwe), to ensure the optimization of water treatment processes. The DWAF team has identified a number of shortcomings at both the water and waste water treatment facilities in that district. Recommendations for rectification were made which included that drinking water quality must be restored to acceptable levels before water distribution is continued. DWAF has been providing tanker service for clean water to the affected communities on the Zimbabwean side. DWAF also provided treatment chemicals (coagulant and disinfectant) since the Zimbabwean National Water Authority had none in stock.

In addition the DWAF (Limpopo) has increased its surveillance/monitoring of all rivers in the Northern Limpopo area and the CSIR is in the process of analyzing the water samples taken from rivers with the objective of isolating the cholera. Results of further tests on whether the Limpopo River was contaminated are expected on Saturday, 6 December 2008. Furthermore, the National Regulation Unit is monitoring strategic areas close to the Zimbabwean border to determine the health of the communities of Musina and Madibo. Samples taken, which include raw sewage, will form a trace for any possible continued pollution of the water course and indicate whether cholera is present in the waste water. Further tests will help to determine whether potable water quality has deteriorated since the last round of sampling. All tap water audit samples thus far have tested negative for any kind of cholera contamination which means that tap water on the South African side is safe for human consumption.

However, we will continue to work with the World Health Organisation’s representatives and other donor organisations to provide assistance to medical facilities in Zimbabwe in order to mange and reduce the influx of Zimbabweans into South Africa and other neighbouring countries. This aid must include the provision of water purification supplies to ensure that Zimbabweans can have access to food and clean water in Zimbabwe.

The Department of Home Affairs has increased the number of staff at the Beitbridge border post to manage the increased influx.

Government also want to clarify the matter regarding the statements from various quarters regarding the sale of Telkom shares in Vodacom. At its meeting held on the 5th of November 2008. Cabinet, as shareholder in Telkom, decided to approve the proposal to sell Telkom shares in Vodacom after lengthy consideration of all factors at its disposal. These factors included the fact that the Vodacom shareholder agreement prevented Telkom from expanding its operations in markets where it would compete with Vodafone and that Telkom needed capital to expand its infrastructure. Government believes that this decision to approve the sale was taken in the best interest of Telkom, its shareholders and in the interest of the country as it will enable the national operator to expand its operations in South Africa and the African continent.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)



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