president cyril ramaphosa grow a spine says da
President Ramaphosa virtually addressing the National Women's Day celebrations, on 6 August 2020.[Photo: GCIS]

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen says it is high time for President Cyril Ramaphosa to “grow a spine, stand up to his party and start putting South Africa first”, in his party’s call for the South African president to end hard lockdown immediately and end the “irrational bans on tobacco and alcohol”.

In a statement on Wednesday, Steenhuisen said: “The tourism industry, schools, and borders need to be fully opened, the curfew lifted, and the state of disaster ended. It is high time for Ramaphosa to grow a spine, stand up to his party and start putting South Africa first.”

Steenhuisen points out that South Africa’s daily Covid-19 infection rate is declining, taking pressure off the public health system; while the recovery rate has increased significantly.

“While this is no reason to drop our guard, it is reason enough to fully open our economy. This must happen immediately,” says Steenhuisen. “There is general agreement that a second wave is unlikely but not impossible. Either way, we cannot hide from this virus forever while our lives and livelihoods fall apart. We need to learn to live with it, since it will still be with us for many months, perhaps even years, to come.”

Steenhuisen reiterated that the wearing of masks and following safety protocols should continue, while rebuilding South Africa’s “shattered economy, which has lost over a trillion rand and three million jobs to this long, irrational, secretive, brutally hard lockdown.”

Steenhuisen says the DA has long called for a coordinated testing strategy to replace hard lockdown. This would have cost around R20 billion per year according to economist. “Instead, the ANC saw fit to slam the brakes on our economy, even as it kept its looting of the state in top gear,” he says. Thousands of lives have been destroyed in South Africa, and millions of livelihoods, “while the virus has spread uncontrolled in vulnerable communities”.

The DA leader blames the huge cost of the government’s failure to years of corruption due to “cadre deployment, where political patronage guides state appointments, rather than any consideration of ability to serve the public”.

Steenhuisen says: “South Africa never could afford more than a 3- to 5-week hard lockdown to prepare our hospitals, build testing capacity, drive awareness, and put in place the safety protocols needed to slow the spread. A capable, caring government could have bridged vulnerable households and business across that short divide, saving lives and livelihoods. Instead the ANC government opened up a wide chasm and allowed people and businesses to fall to their deaths.

“South Africa’s economy was already in crisis before the virus arrived. Now national insolvency is all but guaranteed, while our economy lies in ruins and millions of people will suffer unnecessarily for years to come. Enough is enough. Let’s get back to work and start rebuilding.”