DOCUMENTS

Too late, Mr President, you’ve already killed the economy – John Steenhuisen

DA Leader says whether they call it level one, two, three or six, it doesn’t matter - it should not be there at all

Too late, Mr President, you’ve already killed the economy

15 August 2020

President Ramaphosa’s announcement tonight that the Lockdown will continue at Level 2 is nothing but a capitulation to the real power in the ANC, who desperately want to cling to the “new normal” they have created for South Africa these past five months. The lockdown, along with the State of Disaster that was again extended for 30 days today, only serves to place power and control in a few hands and bypasses government’s legislative arm entirely. Whether they call it level one, two, three or six, it doesn’t matter. It should not be there at all.

Lifting the ban on alcohol and tobacco sales, as well as opening beaches and parks and permitting inter-provincial travel is not something for which government should now be praised or thanked. These restrictions should have been lifted months ago, along with every other regulation that has curbed economic activity during lockdown. The ANC government has caused devastation on an unimaginable scale to the lives of ordinary South Africans, while they themselves have not experienced a single day without income. Throughout the lockdown crisis, they could not have been more out of touch with the people whose lives they destroyed.

The only thing the lockdown achieved was the devastation of our economy and the loss of millions of jobs. And that is what President Ramaphosa and his government must take responsibility for. The President admitted this evening that the models used to justify shutting down the economy were wrong. This is not something he can casually mention and walk away from. If they paralysed our economy for five months based on wrong information, heads must roll right at the top.

We are now in the midst of a devastating economic depression, and all that matters now is getting as many South Africans working as we possibly can. This means opening up every sector of our economy as widely as possible, and particularly our tourism and hospitality sectors. We have to welcome back international tourists. It also means that we cannot afford any more delays in implementing economic reforms, and the President is going to have to learn very quickly how to face down his opponents inside his own party.

The decision to extend the State of Disaster by another month must also be regarded with the utmost suspicion. Nothing at this stage of our efforts to contain the virus justifies a State of Disaster, and there has been no explanation from COGTA Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on why this had to be extended. What we do know is that the Disaster Management Act hands her unprecedented power and circumvents all parliamentary oversight. It has also allowed ANC cadres and their families to loot Covid funding at will.

And that is the big elephant in the room of tonight’s address: the brazen looting of Covid funds by ANC cadres and their family members. South Africans won’t be distracted by announcements of lockdown levels. They want to know what the president is doing about this pandemic of ANC corruption. They want to see charges, court dates and sentences.

With regards to the remaining restrictions – the ban on international travel, the senseless 10pm curfew and limited school attendance – these must all be lifted immediately. Our country simply cannot afford to turn away tourists, and we can’t continue to jeopardise the education of our children. We can, and must, get on with our lives, while remaining vigilant in our behaviour. This means still wearing our masks, washing our hands and surfaces, maintaining distance, keeping windows open and air moving, and avoiding unnecessary large gatherings.

The reality is that President Ramaphosa has not been able to justify the lockdown for a long time now, but backing out of it without having made any significant inroads into building healthcare capacity or containing infections would have been an admission of failure. It would have been a clear admission that our economy was ruined – along with the livelihoods, and even lives, of millions of South Africans – for nothing at all. And so he now has to try and back out of it bit by bit to retain a semblance of control and save some face. But it’s too little, too late. The damage is done.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 15 August 2020