Third Wave: Govt’s failures to blame for loss of lives and livelihoods - John Steenhuisen

DA leader says Ramaphosa administration failed to secure sufficient vaccines in time

Government’s failures to blame for loss of lives and livelihoods during third wave

15 June 2021

The restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa this evening are only necessary because of his administration’s failure to acquire and secure an adequate supply of vaccines, failure to design and implement an efficient vaccine rollout, and failure to build healthcare capacity.

Had they acquired and administered vaccines timeously, lives and livelihoods would have been protected during the third wave. Instead, South Africans will suffer needless loss. Some people will pay for government’s failure with their lives. Others will lose their loved ones. Many will lose their livelihoods. Everyone’s lives will be disrupted. Put on hold in myriad ways, from children losing out on schooling and school-feeding and sporting activities to everyone losing out on precious time with friends and family. All at the hands of an uncaring, incompetent, corrupt government.

The DA has called for a comprehensive parliamentary inquiry into government’s handling of the vaccine programme. There must be accountability for this failure. Just as there must be full and speedy accountability for Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s role in the Digital Vibes scandal. The people of this country resent paying his salary while he is on extended special leave.

Even in the absence of a successful rollout programme, many of these restrictions could have been avoided had other provincial governments ensured enough hospital beds, oxygen and human resource capacity to be able to provide life-saving treatment to all those in need.

The DA and Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, have consistently called for a differentiated approach depending on provincial readiness, and for provinces to have more power to determine their own response. The Western Cape has built enough hospital capacity to ensure that no-one is denied life-saving treatment, and so should not have to suffer the same restrictions of provinces which have made little to no effort to build capacity.

The Gauteng government’s failure to repair and re-open the 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital which was damaged by fire on 16 April is a case in point.

Resorting to alcohol bans, curfews and restrictions on restaurant capacity is a tacit admission that government has failed to do its actual job. Many of these restrictions are ineffectual and are being imposed to create the illusion of doing something. The illusion government needs to create because while the men and women and children of this country have done their bit and sacrificed much to mitigate the damage from the virus, government officials have done little and sacrificed nothing, being more focused on looting Covid funds.

If anything, the Ramaphosa administration has actively harmed society with ill-considered regulations and by standing in the way of people solving their own problems.

While the restrictions imposed this evening are mostly unnecessary, it should be noted that government’s response to the third wave is a far cry from their heavy-handed response to the first and second waves, when they responded with much harder and more damaging lockdowns. This is a tacit admission that the DA was right back in early April 2020 to call for an end to the hard lockdown that was costing the country an estimated R13 billion per day and condemning millions of people to hunger and poverty.

So many lives and livelihoods would have been saved had the DA been in national government during this pandemic. Because unlike the ANC, the DA gets things done.

Statement issued by John Steenhuisen MP - Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 15 June 2021