The Eyewitness News Breakfast Brief

Eyewitness News previews a selection of the news that you will find on the website today.

Picture: Engin Akyurt/Pixabay

On this morning, Unemployment Insurance Fund Commissioner Teboho Maruping will be returning to work after he was suspended for over a year. Maruping was suspended along with the UIF's chief financial officer, chief operating officer and head of supply chain management at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was after an Auditor-General report flagged irregularities with the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme.

The ANC wants the DA-led Western Cape government to hand over the Albert Fritz misconduct investigation to the police. Amid reports the allegations relate to sexual assault complaints, the opposition party claims the DA harbours sex pests and tries to cover them up. The DA has not confirmed those reports or divulged any details of the allegations against Fritz.

The family of IFP founder Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi says there are no signs that the 93-year-old is ready to relinquish his responsibilities or retire anytime soon. In a statement, Buthelezi's family confirm the prime minister to the Zulu monarch is being treated for hypertension at an undisclosed hospital. Family spokesperson Bhekuyise Buthelezi says they took the decision to have him admitted out of concern for his health.

The star witness in the Tshegofatso Pule murder case has conceded that his initial statement was riddled with lies because he desperately wanted to place Ntuthuko Shoba on the scene of the crime. Muzikayise Malephane has been testifying against Shoba in the High Court in Johannesburg. Shoba is the alleged mastermind behind the killing of 28-year-old Pule, who was 8 months pregnant. He's currently serving a 20-year sentence for the murder and has turned State witness.

The National Prosecuting Authority says it's preparing to provide more evidence when the three accused in the Mmakau murders make their next appearance in the Brits Magistrates Court in March. Onthatile Sebati allegedly confessed to paying cousins, Tumelo and Kagiso Mokone to kill her family in Mmakau near Brits - all three face a schedule 6 offence for the murders. Yesterday, the court said it was not convinced it would be in the interests of justice to grant them the R1,000 bail they said they could afford, given the seriousness of the crime. Bail was then set at R10,000. The case was postponed for further investigation.

Our daily COVID-19 positivity rate is on the rise again. 4,514 tests came back positive over the past 24-hour reporting cycle. It's a rate of 10.6%. The Health Department has also uncovered 94 more COVID-related deaths through its ongoing audit. Only 20 of these fatalities occurred over the past 48 hours, meaning the majority of these people died sometime before Monday. Taking the backlog into account, our death toll now stands at 94,491. On the vaccine front, 29.6 million jabs have been administered in the country so far.

Senior SANDF members have claimed that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority is doing the bidding for pharmaceutical monopolies. This is according to the ministerial task team that investigated the irregular procurement of the Cuban drug Heberon to protect soldiers from COVID-19. The task team briefed the defence committee yesterday about its report into the purchase.

KwaZulu-Natal has been labelled as the most problematic province when it comes to multiple shootings, taking over from the Western Cape. These are the sentiments expressed by Police Minister Bheki Cele, who provided an update on investigations into recent multiple murders in KwaZulu-Natal. He announced that arrests have been made in some cases. The minister says the ministry will not let KZN become a battlefield again.

South African scientists are gathering more data on the characteristics of the BA.2 Omicron coronavirus sub-variant. BA.2 is a related member of Omicron's lineage and has been detected in countries like the UK, Denmark and the United States.

The Basic Education Department is pushing for schooling to return to normal. There have been calls for rotational learning to be done away with. At an upcoming gathering, the department will outline how the education sector will rebound following nearly two years of teachers and pupils having had to navigate their way through rotational learning.

Housing activists are pleading with the Department of Land Reform to urgently address restitution in District 6, following the death of the oldest surviving land claimant. Shariefa Khan was 100-years-old when she passed away yesterday. As part of a few dozen people meant to move back last year, she was given the keys to her District 6 home in April. However, no claimants have yet been able to move in or secure the rights to their homes, given building safety hazards the department's construction team still needs to address. |This includes stairways with no bannister and shower facilities that are inaccessible to disabled people. It's nearing the 56th anniversary of when thousands of people of colour were forcibly removed from the suburb after it was declared a whites-only area by the apartheid regime. Spokesperson for the District 6 Working Committee, Karen Breytenbach, says Khan was robbed of her wish to die at home by delays which could've been remedied before her passing.

The memorial service for veteran actor Patrick Shai is set to get underway at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg today. The actor took his life on Saturday at his home in Dobsonville, Soweto, where he had lived for 33 years. Shai was an accomplished actor who became a household name after appearing in countless television series including 'Zero Tolerance', 'Hillside', 'Soul City' and 'Yizo Yizo'.

A community in Hermanus - angered by the murder of a matriculant - has been urged to refrain from taking the law into their own hands. 21-year-old Sisipho Mayile body was discovered near Camphill Bridge last week - on the day she was to get her matric results. The young woman was reported missing earlier this month.

A paroled rapist has been found guilty of the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of an 8-year-old boy in Tulbagh. Jacobus Petoors was convicted in the Western Cape High Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty. Reagan Gertse's murder in March 2020 happened just a few months after his killer was released on parole for another killing.

In news abroad, England on Thursday lifted coronavirus restrictions imposed to tackle the Omicron variant, with masks no longer required in enclosed places and vaccine passports shelved. Denmark will remove virtually all COVID restrictions from next Tuesday despite record infections, counting on a high vaccination rate to cope with the milder Omicron variant, the government said.

Britain's Prince Andrew is seeking a jury trial to clear his name in the sexual assault civil complaint he is fighting in New York, and which has already left him in disgrace and forced him to withdraw from royal duties, his lawyers announced Wednesday.

The United States on Wednesday rejected Russia's key demand to bar Ukraine from Nato and said it believed Moscow was ready to invade but offered what it called a new "diplomatic path" out of the crisis.