As the nation waited with bated breath, the African Christian Democratic Party, (ACDP) welcomes with some concern, the pronouncement by President Cyril Ramaphosa to place the nation on a 21 day lockdown, effective Thursday, 26 March 2020.
With the current number of infections dramatically increasing to 402 in the last week, defeating this epidemic requires the buy-in and leadership of all South Africans.
Our economy is already in a precarious position. We are in a technical recession, and the last rating agency, Moody’s may have no option but to downgrade SA to Junk status.
This lockdown will certainly have lasting implications on our fragile economy. In the light of this, the ACDP welcomes the speedy prosecution of those who would seek to profiteer from this crisis.
The ACDP also welcomes the attempt by President Ramaphosa to consult all stakeholders on a way forward to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
It is the belief of the ACDP that religious organizations, civil society and community organisations must be engaged at a greater level of intensity, on the implementation of the lock down interventions. The majority of these organisations represent the poor, the economically and socially marginalized, and the setting of plans and regulations that do not include these voices could be detrimental for the country.
Many have called for a total lock down of the country, but with 17 million South Africans surviving on less than R3500 a month, and living in cramped spaces, it is this vulnerable group that are most at risk. These families live hand to mouth, relying on the meagre incomes for food and other necessities.
The majority of South Africans are poor, and this is a reality the government cannot shy away from.
The ACDP salutes those financial institutions and other big businesses that have already released plans to help small business owners over the next three months. This assistance also needs to be extended to poor households.
For retail, factory and informal traders, every hour at work is important. A 21 day shut down would mean that millions may go without pay, on the ‘no-work, no-pay’ principle.
The ACDP therefore welcomes the steps announced to alleviate the economic impact on individuals and businesses, and await full details as to how access to this assistance will be fast tracked.
We support the President’s plea to Companies to avoid retrenching workers, as far as is possible, and to access support that will be made available.
The ACDP called for the following interventions, some of which was covered by the President in his address:
• A freeze on UIF payments and a utilization of these funds to assist small business. An extension of the payment period of business loans. No penalties for late SARS submissions.
• 50% Increase of social grants over the next three months
• 50% cut on electricity and water bills for the next three months, which will not be added to bills after the state of disaster is lifted
• Community clinics to be prioritized with free Covid-19 testing equipment and training of staff and community-based primary health care workers.
• Identification of additional local buildings/institutions that can used as temporary hospitals should the needs arise
• Ensure that proper sanitation and water is provided to all communities
The ACDP continues to call for communities, churches and South Africans at large to pray and to stand together in our fight against the virus, Covid-19.
As a nation we have faced many challenges, and as we face this pandemic, we can defeat it and come out stronger.