Tonight we saw a president so determined to avoid taking responsibility, that he now seeks to blame the very citizens he has failed to protect.
Government’s reintroduction of an alcohol ban and a night-time curfew is simply to distract from the real issue: the utter failure to build treatment and testing capacity. These ineffective gimmicks are an attempt to obscure the truth of our situation: that national government has completely and utterly wasted South Africa’s long and crippling lockdown.
President Ramaphosa has broken his contract with the people of South Africa, putting both their lives and livelihoods at risk. He called on the nation to make huge sacrifices – their livelihoods, their freedoms, and sometimes their lives – to buy time for government to build treatment and testing capacity. The nation answered that call, yet government has nothing to show for it.
Only one province – the DA-run Western Cape – used the lockdown effectively to build field hospitals. And I mean properly equipped and staffed field hospitals, not rows of beds bought from furniture stores with no staff or oxygen infrastructure. Apart from the one field hospital in the Eastern Cape, built by the private sector, there are no up-and-running field hospitals in the other eight provinces.
The DA-led Western Cape government has managed to both successfully augment healthcare capacity and manage infection rates with an aggressive and focused testing strategy. As a result, they have managed to flatten the infection curve and raise the line of public healthcare capacity.
So while there is spare capacity in Western Cape field hospitals even as infections peak there, the people of ANC-run provinces are left fighting over oxygen, and for their lives while money allocated for boosting public healthcare haemorrhages under corruption and scooter scandals. Instead of effective testing regimes, quarantine facilities, hospital beds, oxygen and caregivers as infections spike, there is the usual corruption and scapegoating.
The argument that alcohol trauma is putting the system under pressure is simply an excuse and coverup for this failure. Alcohol is the scapegoat, not the reason. A curfew gives an illusion of control, when quite clearly the government has no control over the real issue, which is treatment and testing capacity. These are false narratives that should not divert us from what we need to do.
The DA rejects the ban on family visits. It fundamentally undermines the right to dignity and goes to the heart of what makes us human. How can it be legal to visit a casino or a church service with 49 other people, but illegal to see one’s own family?
We need a Marshall Plan to build treatment and prevention capacity. Government must have the humility to ask the private sector for help and must learn from what is working in the Western Cape. Every available resource must be rallied to the cause.
- Scrap plans for funding SAA, gravedigging, scooters and e-tolls and immediately divert the funds to building field hospitals and testing capacity.
- Partner with the private sector to massively ramp up testing, tracking and tracing, and drive a national, coordinated testing strategy to get control of the virus. We cannot give up on prevention.
- Partner with oxygen suppliers and manufacturers to get oxygen to all hospitals in need.
- Repurpose factories to make the necessary oxygen equipment.
- Roll out the procurement of high flow nasal oxygen devices to circumvent the delay in ventilators.
- Ban large indoor gatherings and end the ban on outdoor public spaces, to encourage people to meet outdoors.
- Build awareness of the risk of airborne transmission through aerosolized spray. Educate people that transmission risk is reduced by managing the 3D’s of distance, dose and dispersal and drive behavioural change accordingly.
- Take up the Western Cape’s repeated offer to share expertise on this matter with other governments. This offer still stands.
- Provide three free cloth masks to all those who cannot afford them. The DA urged this three months ago, arguing that this spend would pay for itself many, many times over.
- Implement the DA’s call for a Special Inspector General for Covid expenditure, with powers to intercept corruption in real time.
- Deal swiftly and decisively with any official involved in corruption around Covid funding and procurement, including stiff minimum sentences.
President Ramaphosa’s presidency has been marked by one thing above all: evading responsibility for fixing South Africa. His resort to these gimmicks and his shifting of the blame to citizens is nothing short of a betrayal of national trust. Mr President, it is time you took decisive and firm measures to govern for the benefit of South Africa and not the ANC.