Nehawu seeking legal advice over KZN premier 'gambling with lives at hospital rally'
Durban – The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in KwaZulu-Natal said on Tuesday it was "appalled" by the province's premier allegedly hosting a Freedom Day rally on Monday while the country was in a Level 5 Covid-19 lockdown.
It was seeking legal advice on the "mini-rally" held at Clairwood Hospital by Premier Sihle Zikalala.
The hospital is based in the south of eThekwini. The entire metro has been declared a hot spot for the coronavirus by Zikalala himself.
"The rally by the premier is in clear violation of the dictates of the Disaster Management Act and lockdown regulations.
"In this regard, we find it extremely unacceptable that the premier has decided to violate both the act and the regulations, even after recent updates on Covid-19 revealing that our infection rate as a province is growing at an alarming rate on a daily basis," said Nehawu.
Zikalala invited workers to take part in the rally to thank them for their work during the pandemic. The union called the move "reckless".
"Workers have to practise social distancing as part of curbing the spread of the virus. Workers who are critical in the fight against the pandemic were made to stand for hours under the scorching sun while listening to speeches from executives who were sitting under shade."
The union said it would "expose those" who gambled with the lives of its members.
"We will ensure that those who were involved are held accountable both collectively and individually. We view this matter in a very serious light and we are currently receiving legal advice."
As of Monday night, the province had 902 infections, including 121 healthworkers. Thirty Covid-19-related deaths had been recorded so far, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and there were 241 recoveries.
"Nehawu will do everything in its power, including using all available resources at its disposal, to defend its members and workers from reckless and intransigent employers," it said.
The DA in the province said on Monday it had laid a charge against Zikalala for breaking the lockdown regulations via the rally.
"The gazetted regulation on the restrictions of movement, section 11 B (ii) stipulates that 'every gathering, as defined in regulation 1 is prohibited, except for funeral as provided for in sub-regulation(8)'," said MP Dianne Kohler, the party's Durban central constituency head.
"eThekwini has 67% of KZN cases of the virus and the numbers keep increasing by approximately 10 cases daily.
"The KwaZulu-Natal province carries the highest number of infected health workers in SA at 122 (15% of all infected), but today we saw the premier of the province calling those same essential workers to a rally. He pulled essential workers from vital duties in wards and ambulances," she said.
Zikalala's communications' team called the DA's response "fake news", saying the premier and members of the Covid-19 provincial command council conducted "routine work" at the hospital and also handed over "thousands of N95 masks".
"He then utilised the occasion to appreciate and motivate the frontline staff who are manning the forward trenches in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
"This was not a gathering as contemplated in the lockdown regulations, but an ongoing routine work to monitor the state of preparedness by the province to respond to Covid-19," said KZN provincial government spokesperson Lennox Mabaso.IOL
- African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Desiree Erasmus