It seems a national shutdown has formed part of discussions between President Cyril Ramaphosa and smaller opposition parties.
Several opposition leaders met with the president at the Union Buildings on Sunday, where they shared their views on the country’s battle against the novel coronavirus.
The meeting came amid reports that the country’s defence force was on standby for a possible lockdown and a potential state of emergency.
Rwanda became the first African country to declare a lockdown after it was confirmed there were 17 cases of the virus.
South Africa had 240 confirmed cases by Saturday. Last Sunday, Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster to try to stem the spread of the virus. At the time, 62 people had been infected with Covid-19.
This Sunday, following meetings with political parties and business leaders, the president said he wanted to consult and give more stakeholders an opportunity to share their views on the global pandemic and possible approaches and solutions the country should consider.
Political parties at the meeting included the IFP, NFP, Cope, UDM, ATM and Al-Jama.
“Let’s work together with government. If we do not comply, we are going to be forced into a shutdown and we need to avoid that,” said the NFP’s Ahmed Shaik Emam.
He, like several others, praised the Ramaphosa government’s approach to the pandemic and urged South Africans to work with their leaders to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.
While Shaik Emam raised concerns over high prices and the non-compliance by some when it came to regulations against large gatherings, he called on municipalities to ensure citizens had access to proper water, electricity and to prevent any evictions.
‘This is worse than a war situation’
Al-Jama’s Mogamad Hendricks also shared his thoughts on a potential shutdown. He said government couldn’t afford to do so due to “infrastructure” in rural areas.
“This is worse than a war situation,” said Hendricks.
He said the virus had also highlighted some of the inequalities in the country’s health sector and called for the National Health Insurance to be implemented sooner.
ATM leader Vuyo Zungula joined the others in pledging support for the president but also called on citizens to act. He also called on the private sector to join forces with government.
“We are appealing to the private sector to come on board. In other countries you have banks that have reduced interest rates and payment holidays,” he said.
Cope’s Mosiuoa Lekota said it was a united approach that would help South Africa get through the viral outbreak.
“It’s time for patriotism. Patriotism is about the love of your country, the love of your people. Whether they vote for you or not is irrelevant. We want our country to survive,” said Lekota.
The IFP’s Elphias Buthelezi also used his address to call on families capable of assisting the loved ones of their domestic workers to do so. He said this could be done with the provision of sanitary products like hand sanitisers.
The UDM’s Bantu Holomisa said the principles needed to combat the virus included discipline, a clean environment, speed and control.
He said his party had been asking its own structures to not only heed Ramaphosa’s message, but to go out and “warn people”.
While complaining of the threat areas that have become dump sites pose to communities, he also called on municipalities and those with large trucks to step up and use the opportunity to clean up the country.