The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to move the lockdown level to 3 from 4 “as soon as it was safe to do so” amid an “economic firestorm”.
The federation’s call comes after Minister of Police Bheki Cele said on Monday that the committee overseeing the regulations of the Covid-19 lockdown was discussing the possibility of moving the country to level 3.
The minister, however, said he could not give an answer as to when level 3 would be implemented, “but the time will come”.
Speaking to Business Day on Monday, Cosatu’s spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said the country needed to proceed to level 3 as soon as it was safe to do so while simultaneously working on decreasing the Covid-19 infections.
“There is a risk that infections will increase, and the necessary health and safety measures must be put in place to reduce this risk,” he said.
Pamla said that since the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) had already disbursed R11 billion as relief benefits to the public along with food parcels, government would not be able to carry on with the economic crisis looming.
“Level 3 will allow most workers to resume work. This is critical to ensuring that their jobs can be saved and that they can provide food for their families, but it must be done in a manner which protects their lives,” said Pamla.
Ramaphosa announced in April that R500 billion was set aside in a social and economic relief package for the country’s economy during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to projections by National Treasury, South Africa stands to lose as many as 7 million jobs, which would raise the unemployment rate from 29.1% to 50%.
Treasury projected that the economy would contract by 6.4%.
It was reported that Ramaphosa would visit the Western Cape, which has the most Covid-19 cases in the country, standing at 6,105, later this week after the minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, met with the province’s leaders over the weekend to discuss the increase of infections.
Pamla said Cosatu hoped that the president’s visit to the Western Cape would help the province come up with a plan to assist in combating the spread of the virus.
On Monday, another alliance partner of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) blasted the Western Cape’s handling of Covid-19 and raised their concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the people and economy.
SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said the provincial government and the Democratic Alliance (DA) was focused on making money while people’s lives were at risk.
“There has been more emphasis on profit making than on human life. The DA has been pushing a similar approach across SA, which is dangerous,” said Mashilo.
The DA on Tuesday called on Ramaphosa to come out of hiding and address the nation on the “escalating lockdown crisis”.
National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) president Pat Mphela, who also spoke to Business Day, said that all “Covid-19 hotspots” should be “strictly locked” to ensure stricter screening, testing and implementation of isolation measures, while Ramaphosa conceded that “extreme precautions” remained in placed under level 4 to limit community transmission.
“Nactu is of the view that we should immediately move to level 3 to ease the economic ramifications, while enforcing strict compliance measures,” he said.
(Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa)