The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to end the curfew imposed in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, open all sectors of the South African economy, and allow for international travel and reintroduce a normal school week.
“Lockdown restrictions must be ended entirely and immediately, with the exception of mass gatherings in confined spaces. This severe and prolonged lockdown has plunged our economy, the lifeline of our society, into unprecedented crisis. We simply cannot afford the luxury of blanket restrictions on economic activity,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen.
“Rather, government should trust people to take individual responsibility in line with clear safety guidelines. The lockdown has devastated South Africa’s economy, causing immense suffering, including widespread hunger. It has increased, rather than decreased, risk for millions of households, and aggravated inequality, including educational inequality.”
Steenhuisen said the country now faces the prospect of a deep and prolonged depression as debt spirals out of control.
“Respected scientists, such as vaccinology Professor Shabir Mahdi and Dr Glenda Gray, both members of government’s ministerial advisory committee, have advised that lockdown is not serving any useful purpose and should be ended, with the exception of large gatherings in confined spaces,” said Steenhuisen.
He said in calling for a full opening of the South African economy and schools, the DA is not denying the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 infections, “even though the scientific consensus is that this risk is low”.
“Rather, we believe that the risk posed to households by a deep and prolonged depression is far greater on balance. Furthermore, the recovery rate for those infected is now much higher than some months ago, while societal behaviour change and a build-up of herd immunity are both serving to considerably slow the rate of transmission, which was the original purpose of lockdown,” said Steenhuisen.
“We need to get back to work, to school, and to our lives – and we need to do it safely. But we need to do more than that. We also need to agree as a society to back the economic reforms that can get our economy growing again, and that can roll back poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“These include urgently opening up the energy market to enable a reliable, affordable power supply and auctioning spectrum to bring down data costs, as well as opening the labour market for small business, to boost job creation.
“And finally, we must walk away from investment-killing policies such as NHI (national health insurance), EWC (expropriation without compensation), asset prescription and SARB (SA Reserve Bank) nationalisation.”
Steenhuisen said “poverty is a deadly pandemic in its own right requiring decisive action from our government that has so far not been forthcoming”.
Speculation is rife that President Cyril Ramaphosa will this week address the nation and announce a further easing of lockdown restrictions to level 1.