OPINION

Stop the fearmongering, end the state of disaster – John Steenhuisen

DA leader rejects veiled threat of return to higher levels of lockdown

Stop the fearmongering, stop the economy-bashing, and end the state of disaster, Mr President

12 November 2020

It is incomprehensible that the state of disaster has been extended by yet another month. Government cannot keep managing South Africa around a single risk when our nation is so imperiled by far greater risks, such as poverty, hunger and unemployment.

We reject with contempt the veiled threat of a return to higher levels of lockdown.

This country is in serious trouble. What people need most right now is maximum freedom and confidence to rebuild the economy and their lives. They need stability and certainty that there will be no return to lockdown, ever.

The state of disaster has itself been disastrous, fuelling not just a feeding frenzy of corruption, but also illegal land invasions and lawlessness. Government needs to get its act together and put regulations for Covid-19 in place for a new normal until a vaccination is widely available, so that the state of disaster can end.

The DA has long called on government to trust people to slow transmission through masks, social distancing and practical common sense interventions.

The state of disaster, the ongoing lockdown, and the continuous threat of a harder lockdown that still hangs over South Africa will greatly harm our economic recovery. The only way to grow jobs and taxes is through investment in productive enterprises.

Government needs to understand that investors like certainty and there’ll be no recovery while the state of disaster remains in place.

We reiterate our call for government to end the lockdown, end the state of disaster, open the borders, end the curfew and allow South Africa to get back to normal economic activity. The possibility of any more lockdowns must be unequivocally rejected.

The Covid fatality rate in developing countries is only about a fifth of the rate in developed countries because of our younger populations. It makes no sense to mindlessly copy far richer, older nations’ responses. Unless of course you want an excuse to run a dictatorship.

Ramaphosa’s cabinet seem to be the last people in South Africa to understand that we cannot afford the luxury of lockdown and do not need them anyway.

Millions of jobs have already been lost, along thousands of businesses, and billions of rands in tax revenue.

More devastation is yet to come. People are desperate. Children are starving. The government has nothing to be proud of in their Covid response and everything to be ashamed of.

Ramaphosa’s cabinet has accused South Africans of acting “recklessly and irresponsibly, as if Covid-19 no longer exists”. People know Covid-19 exists. But they know it exists alongside plenty of other risks they face. They know many of these other risks are greater for them – including the risk of lockdown, which has shown to be far more deadly than Covid in lower income countries due to its effects on poverty, hunger, unemployment, domestic violence and public health in general.

Far from being reckless and irresponsible, the attempts by millions of South Africans to return to normal economic activity is sane and sensible.

What is reckless and irresponsible is the government’s veiled threat to impose more lockdown. And the fearmongering and economy-bashing they have indulged in this year as cover to centralise more and more power in the state.

Stop managing South Africa around a single risk, Mr President. Stop the fear-mongering, stop the economy-bashing, and end the state of disaster.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 11 November 2020