President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on public office bearers and executives of large companies to take pay cuts and contribute to the Solidarity Fund which will go towards mobilising resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramaphosa made this plea when he addressed the nation on Thursday night to announce a further two-week extension of the national lockdown.
He announced he, together with his Cabinet, deputy ministers and premiers would take a one-third cut in their salaries for the next three months which would be donated to the fund.
It had so far raised around R2.2 billion, with half of that already allocated to buy gloves, face shields, surgical masks, test kits and ventilators, Ramaphosa said.
“It will also allocate funds for humanitarian relief to vulnerable households, in addition to the R400 million set aside by the government for social relief of distress grants. We are calling on other public office bearers and executives of large companies to make a similar gesture to further increase the reach of this national effort.”
Several governments have already made salary adjustments to aid their economies during the lockdown. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as African presidents – including Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Malawi’s Peter Mutharika with their Cabinets – have each taken salary cuts.
Ramaphosa said there had been some progress in combating the scourge during the lockdown, adding that the daily infection rate had decreased from around 42% to 4%.
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“We are only at the beginning of a monumental struggle that demands our every resource and our every effort. We cannot relax. We cannot be complacent.
“In the coming weeks and months, we must massively increase the extent of our response and expand the reach of our interventions,” he said before announcing the lockdown would be extended for another two weeks.
Some of the measures, which will be extended during this time, include special facilities for those who cannot self-isolate and a Covid-19 information centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
“This world class centre will keep track of all screening, testing, isolation and hospitalisation throughout the country. It is already identifying infection hot spots. It is following the spread and the severity of the disease and enabling us to move our focus and resources where they are most needed,” Ramaphosa added.
The president identified one of the government’s biggest challenges as the shortage of medical supplies. South Africa has not only relied on its own supply, but the government has also sourced supplies from other countries.
Mobilisation of South African business, labour, academics and government agencies will get underway in the next few weeks to build the stocks of medical and other equipment needed to fight the coronavirus.
“We have, for example, established the National Ventilator Project to rapidly mobilise the technical and industrial resources of our country to manufacture non-invasive ventilators which can be used to support patients afflicted with the disease.
“Other projects are focusing on increasing the local manufacture of protective face masks, hand sanitisers and pharmaceutical products which can be used by healthcare workers and the public at large,” said Ramaphosa.