The DA welcomed President Cyril Ramphosa’s announcement of reopening the economy as the country moves to lockdown Level 3 from 1 June.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a statement on Sunday: “This is in line with what the DA has called for, repeatedly, for the past month. While it is critical that we now save what can be saved in our economy, it must be said that by the time Alert Level 3 comes into effect in a week’s time, it will be a full six weeks too late.”
The DA leader said there was “no rational justification” to extend the lockdown beyond the initial three weeks which “caused irreparable damage to the country’s economy”.
“The resulting hardship and suffering and ultimately, the premature deaths of South African citizens due to this will have been largely avoidable. The government and President Ramaphosa will need to answer for this.
“South Africa has now entered its ninth week of hard lockdown, which makes ours the second-longest lockdown in the world, after only Italy and by 1 June, we will have surpassed Italy,” he said.
Steenhuisen said the country’s economy could barely withstand the initial three weeks and the extension had come at a cost to millions while there was very little to show for it in return.
“For the past month and a half, South Africans have had to sit at home and watch everything they had built up fall apart. Businesses went bust, employees went unpaid, rents accumulated, home loan payments were missed and hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs.
“This figure will soon be millions, as the effects of this lockdown reverberate through our economy. And people did this, they sat at home and watched it collapse because they were told this was their end of the deal.
“Their part of the so-called social compact President Ramaphosa speaks of, but the other end of this deal never materialised. Government didn’t use the past five weeks to ready itself for the wave of infections and it didn’t use the time to find and help those South Africans most in need,” he added.
The DA leader said in additional the R350 grant had still not kicked in apart from the ten people who allegedly received it, and many businesses had still not received a cent in Covid-19 TERS funding.
“Citizens sacrificed everything while government reneged on the deal and there has been no comprehensive reporting on healthcare readiness, other than in the Western Cape, where Premier Alan Winde has consistently been transparent
“So while the DA welcomes this move to alert Level 3, we must stress that it comes far too late for millions of South Africans who have already paid heavily for government’s dithering. And why should this only come into effect a week from now?
“This lockdown is costing our economy around R13 billion a day. The president must end it tomorrow, not next week and even now, at level 3, the irrational regulations and exclusions remain,” he continued.
He said there was no reason for businesses such as hair salons to remain shut and cigarettes to remain banned.
“We call on President Ramaphosa to provide us with the scientific justification for the continuation of this ban, which is costing our country hundreds of millions of Rands in missed tax revenue.
“We also need the President to fill in the biggest missing piece of the puzzle: the plan to fix the past six weeks of economic devastation and the past decade of mismanagement and looting. There can be no more delay when it comes to spelling out the bold economic reforms we need,” he said.
Steenhuisen said due to the government’s “dithering”, an economic depression was already “baked into the cake”.
“Unless we immediately implement structural reforms, which include selling and privatising state-owned enterprises (SOEs), scrapping destructive plans like expropriation without compensation and National Health Insurance (NHI).
“Also dramatically cutting the public wage bill, an entire generation of South Africans will be left to pay the price for the six weeks that destroyed our economy,” he concluded.
(Compiled by Molefe Seeletsa)