Samwu, SA's largest municipal workers' union, has become the latest organisation to postpone its congress due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak.

On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the virus, officially designated as SARS-CoV-2, a national disaster and announced sweeping measures to contain its spread. These  included travel restrictions on foreigners from hard-hit countries, a ban on mass gatherings of more than 100 people, and the closure of schools.

On Monday, the ANC said it is postponing all its coming conferences, including its midterm national general council (NGC), while the DA said it is suspending its policy conference and that a decision on its federal congress to elect the party's new leadership will be taken later.

The University of SA (Unisa), Africa’s largest open-distance learning institution, has announced that it has suspended all graduation ceremonies until further notice.

On Tuesday, the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) said a decision had been reached to postpone its 12th national congress scheduled to be held in Mafikeng from March 23-26. It was postponed “until such a time that the state of national disaster is lifted or government announces otherwise”.

“We have further taken a decision to also postpone our special central executive committee and financial committee meetings which were scheduled to be held before the national congress,” said Samwu general secretary Koena Ramotlou.

“As a precautionary measure, we advise all our structures to abide by the pronouncements of the president. Should the need arise for general meetings, we encourage members to rather have these meetings in stages that comply with the directive of less than 100 people. In the interest of the union’s employees, we are putting in place measures which would assist in reducing their exposure to the virus.”

Ramotlou said they were particularly concerned by the health and wellbeing of their members whose exposure to Covid-19 was high. These included bus drivers, community health workers, cashiers and workers who use crowded public transport such as trains, buses and taxis.

On Monday, transport minister Fikile Mbalula said there would be random screening of passengers for Covid-19 at all taxi ranks and train stations. He said he will be engaging with the stakeholders in the transport sector before issuing instructions and consolidated plans. Mbalula said the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) would sanitise all of its trains and called on all taxi operators to do the same with their vehicles.

Ramotlou called on the SA Local Government Association (Salga), an organisation representing the country's municipalities, to announce a health plan that will ensure the safety of municipal workers.

Salga spokesperson Buhle Ngwenya said a plan to combat the spread of Covid-19 would be finalised later on Tuesday.


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