Coronavirus News Africa

Mixed views from opposition parties as Ramaphosa opens more sectors of the economy

  • Opposition parties slammed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on the reopening of more sectors of the economy.
  • The DA said the announcement came too late.
  • The EFF and IFP questioned the science behind the decision. 

Political parties have criticised President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to open more sectors of the economy under Alert Level 3 of the lockdown.

The president delivered an address to the nation on Wednesday evening, announcing that several sectors, including the personal care industry, restaurants, cinemas, casinos and non-contact sport, could go back to work, provided that they adhere to safety and prevention protocols to combat the spread of Covid-19.

READ MORE | Hairdressers, restaurants to reopen, Ramaphosa talks tough on gender-based violence

While the president’s own political party, the ANC, welcomed the move, most opposition parties criticised it for different reasons.

“It’s happened far too late. Everything he announced tonight could have, and should have, been announced almost two months ago,” said DA interim leader John Steenhuisen.

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa’s words of commiseration for industries that were not allowed to operate over the past 80 days, ran hollow.

The president implemented a hard lockdown in March to slow the spread of the deadly pandemic.

Risk-adjusted approach

The government had adopted a risk-adjusted approach to the pandemic incorporating five different levels, the fifth being a hard lockdown in which essential service employees were the only ones allowed to operate.

“It is unclear at which level of the lockdown we now find ourselves, not that it makes much difference, as the lockdown is now de facto ended,” said Steenhuisen.

He also questioned why private accommodation businesses and childhood development centres were not allowed to go back, saying this meant their parents would not be able to get back to work because their children were at home. He accused the government of continuing to stand in the way of people earning a living.

“There is no shortcut to undoing this devastation,” said Steenhuisen, who added that the economy was opened too late to save businesses and millions of jobs.

The EFF also expressed disappointment, but for a different reason.

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The party had been against the move from Level 5 and at one stage, even went as far as calling on South Africans to stage a “stay-away”.

Its spokesperson, Vuyani Pambo, told the SABC the president was essentially moving the coronavirus from person to person. Pambo added that the country had not reached its peak.

“We note the announcement by the president with dismay. It’s very disappointing that he continued to announce the easing without scientific backing,” Pambo told the public broadcaster.

“He continues making decisions that are favourable for capitalists and not in the interest of people,” said Pambo.

The red berets spokesperson said the black majority would be the hardest hit.

Pambo told the SABC:

Opening up of the economy does not serve any black person, especially those who are struggling with the mere ability to get admitted into hospital and get treated with the care they deserve.

The IFP, which described Wednesday evening’s move as “premature”, said opening up some sectors of the economy was not based on medical facts, but rather on political consideration and the pending court challenges the government faced.

It also said this called the government’s entire response to the virus into question.

IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said Ramaphosa’s announcement was “poorly timed and “ill-considered”.

“The lifting of the restrictions is premature as many other sectors are left in the lurch and are fighting for survival on the frontlines as school classrooms are not certain of remaining open, hospital beds are filling up to capacity and testing, tracing and tracking of the coronavirus is not up to speed,” said Hlengwa.

He said the IFP was cautioning government against the move to avoid costing the country more lives.

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