Ramaphosa wraps up meeting with business and political leaders, begins Command Council planning

President Cyril Ramaphosa arriving at the Presidential Guesthouse where he met with Religious leaders to help curb the spread of the Covid-19 infections in the country, 19 March 2020, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The president has met with key stakeholders before announcing the plans government will put in place this week in order to step up the response against the spread of Covid-19.

Speaking at the Union Buildings at noon on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa thanked political parties for their collective involvement in giving their input on the national response against the novel coronavirus, which causes Covid-19.

He also met with business leaders, and further thanked them for their important input and commitments.

“We are fortunate as a nation that we have a lot of people who mean well for our people and support government … in making sure we safeguard the lives of our people,” said Ramaphosa.

He gave an opportunity to various political leaders, including Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota, to speak. Lekota said it was a time for patriotism.

The IFP called on all South Africans not to panic and cooperate with government. The party said the country could avoid a shutdown if citizens complied with the measures already in place. They called for a moratorium on evictions and other payment holidays for people whose livelihoods were being affected by the economic slowdown in society.

The NFP congratulated government on the measures already taken and also committed its support.

Bantu Holomisa of the UDM said citizens should ensure they kept their immediate environments clean.

The ATM’s Vuyolwethu Zungula called for people to put differences aside, and work together. The party warned that South Africa should work more proactively than Italy had done. They also called on payment holidays to be implemented so that people would not lose their homes if they found themselves unable to pay instalments or rent.

Al-Jama’ah’s Ganief Hendricks said “Allah knows best” and hoped that Ramaphosa would act with wisdom.

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel gave feedback on government’s engagements with the business sector. He said the plan was to “consolidate a single approach to the economy … what the meeting focused on was a report on what government is going, the work on the global slowdown, the work to ensure there are basic healthcare stocks … food and other essentials. We talked about what we can do to support vulnerable small businesses, and workers.”

He said all the important feedback would feed into the president’s message to the nation “in due course, later”.

Patel said there was a real commitment to working together and all the pledges of support, collaboration and cooperation were appreciated.

The details would only emerge in Ramaphosa’s address later today.

A number of businesspeople then took the opportunity to speak.

The Black Business Council’s Sandile Zungu said the business sector had given a strong commitment to “flattening the infection curve”.

“Working together we will ameliorate the hazards affecting ordinary working people.”

Business Unity SA’s Martin Kingston said the business sector had agreed on an integrated approach and had mobilised “very significant resources” over the short, medium and long terms.

“The ravages of coronavirus are going to be with us for a long time to come,” Kingston said.

The Banking Association of SA’s Richard Wainwright thanked Ramaphosa for the leadership he had shown to date.

“As South Africans we can be extremely confident and proud of our banking sector. We are very well positioned to … help with this crisis we are facing.” They recognised that banking played a very significant role in dealing with this crisis and were working tirelessly, said Wainwright.

Ramaphosa has been dedicating his Sunday to key engagements around the national state of disaster occasioned by the outbreak of the coronavirus, beginning with a consultation with business leaders at the Union Buildings.

The presidency said the engagement with business formed part of a series of meetings the president has held with various stakeholder constituencies – including communities of faith and the nation’s political leadership – in the week since his declaration on 15 March of the national state of disaster.

“These leaders will have an opportunity to outline the impact of the disaster on businesses and the economy at large, and engage recommendations to mitigate the impact of the outbreak on the economy at large,” said spokesperson Khusela Diko on Sunday morning.

The leaders who saw the president today did not have an opportunity at the meeting at parliament to deliver statements of support and therefore also did so today with media present.

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said the president would now go into a National Command Council meeting to deliberate on what his next decisions would be, which would be conveyed in a speech to the nation later today.

“Later in the day the president will chair a meeting of the National Command Council which will receive an update on the novel coronavirus outbreak; progress and challenges related to implementation of the recently promulgated regulations on the state of disaster and other measures to protect the country, as well as economic impact.

On the outlook for the period ahead, the council would consider whether the measures currently in place to contain the spread of the virus were sufficient and what further measures might be required.

“Following the Council’s deliberations, President Ramaphosa will address the nation in a message that will be broadcast on radio and television, and livestreamed online,” said Diko.

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