Job losses, family visits and closing schools – political parties react to Ramaphosa’s speech

13 July 2020 - 08:20 By Iavan Pijoos and and Nomahlubi Jordaan
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening that alcohol sales would be banned 'with immediate effect', a curfew would be implemented again and harsher lockdown law enforcement would take place.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday evening that alcohol sales would be banned 'with immediate effect', a curfew would be implemented again and harsher lockdown law enforcement would take place.
Image: Supplied

There have been mixed reactions after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on Sunday evening.

Ramaphosa announced that the sale of alcohol would be banned “with immediate effect”, a curfew would be implemented again and harsher lockdown law enforcement would take place

Ramaphosa said the ban on the sale of alcohol was to ensure hospital beds were not taken up “by those who come in resulting from alcohol-induced trauma or injuries”.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said the government had failed to build Covid-19 treatment and testing capacity.

“He called on the nation to make huge sacrifices – their livelihoods, their freedoms and sometimes their lives – to buy time for government to build treatment and testing capacity. The nation answered that call, yet government has nothing to show for it.

“Instead of effective testing regimes, quarantine facilities, hospital beds, oxygen and caregivers as infections spike, there is the usual corruption and scapegoating,” Steenhuisen said.

He said the party rejected the ban on family visits, saying it undermined the right to dignity and goes to the heart of what “makes us human”.

“How can it be legal to visit a casino or a church service with 49 other people, but illegal to see one’s own family?”

Steenhuisen said the country needed a "Marshall Plan" to build treatment and prevention capacity. He called on the government to scrap plans for funding SAA, digging graves, contracts for scooters and e-tolls and immediately divert the funds to building field hospitals and testing capacity.

Steenhuisen said the government should partner the private sector to ramp up testing, tracking and tracing, and drive a national and co-ordinated testing strategy to gain control of the virus.

He said there should be an increase in oxygen suppliers and manufacturers, a ban on large indoor gatherings and the provision of three free cloth masks to all those who cannot afford them.

Congress of the People (Cope) said it did not understand Ramaphosa's rationale on banning the sale of alcohol but allowing 100% loading of taxis on local trips.

“In our view, this is a serious contradiction. We want to make it clear that we support this decision on the ban on alcohol because it is in the best interest of saving lives. However, one cannot say one is implementing stricter measures in fighting Covid-19 and disregard social distancing in the taxis,” said Cope's national chairperson Dennis Bloem.

He said the decision to load taxis 100% was irresponsible and reckless.

“It is a death trap to thousands of poor people whose only mode of transport is taxis.”

The party called on the president to review his decision on the loading of taxis as it was in the “best interest” of saving thousands of lives.

The IFP called on Ramaphosa and the national command council to move the country back to level 4, saying that updating alert level regulations was not enough.

IFP national spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said Ramaphosa’s “stern, honest and sobering update” was a failed attempt to “knuckle down and decisively deal with the rapid spread of the coronavirus”.

“The largely cosmetic changes announced by the president are insufficient in mitigating the risk of transmissions. We believe the president, together with the national coronavirus command council and cabinet, should reconsider the country’s lockdown alert level from level 3 to 4,” Hlengwa said.

He said no announcement was made about suspending the return to school, saying schools should remain closed until after the country had reached the peak of infections.

Hlengwa warned that the 100% loading capacity in taxis went against social and physical distancing regulations.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) welcomed the government's decision to reintroduce the curfew and the immediate suspension of the sale and distribution of alcohol, which it said had overburdened the health-care system with trauma injuries caused by alcohol consumption. 

“While the speech of the president mainly focused on creating awareness about the dangers of the virus, including measures to mitigate the risk of transmissions, the union believes that the speech failed to address the plight of front line workers nor does it offer any tangible solutions to the struggles they are confronted with on a daily basis,” the union said.

“The speech by the president acknowledges that there is a shortage of more than 12,000 health workers, mostly nurses, doctors and physiotherapists. However, it is surprisingly silent on plans to immediately deal with this problem.”

The union said Ramaphosa failed to address the issue of salary increases for frontline workers. “They have not received their annual increase which was due on April 1 2020 after the government elected to renege on implementing a signed collective agreement. The national union notes with serious concern the failure by the president to address this urgent matter which has left many of our frontline workers dejected and struggling to make ends meet.”