Note to Editors: Please find attached a soundbite by the Leader of the DA John Steenhuisen MP
Tonight, President Ramaphosa should have reassured the nation by announcing a cabinet clean up. Nothing else is going to cut it.
For starters, South Africa needs a full-time health minister to manage a full-time pandemic response. He should have announced that he has fired Health Minister Zweli Mkhize for his part in the Digital Vibes scandal and that he has replaced him with a competent individual with the skills and experience to make the right decisions.
It beggars belief that Mkhize is still on fully-paid leave, over six weeks after his suspension. If Mkhize is innocent, then Ramaphosa would have released the Digital Vibes report by now, and we call on him to do this. The public has a right to know. South Africans are tired of being treated like children.
The president should also have announced competent replacements for police minister Bheki Cele and state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo, both of whom have completely failed South Africa. Confidence in South Africa is at an all-time low and only a wholesale cabinet clean-up is going to get people to believe in this country again.
Hapless energy minister Gwede Mantashe must be replaced with someone who understands the urgency to bring down the cost and increase the supply of electricity by opening South Africa’s energy market. Structural reform has never been more urgent. Any minister standing in the way of progress must be summarily replaced.
We welcome social relief grants. They are desperately needed. But these relief measures are not going to be sustainable over the longer term without swift and decisive structural reform. The best and most sustainable way to help the poor and vulnerable is to create jobs.
South Africans are under indescribable pressure. The suffering is unimaginable to those of us who are lucky enough to have secure jobs. Trust in Ramaphosa’s administration is at an all-time low. Tonight, people needed to hear that their need for competent, caring leadership comes before the ANC’s need to balance factional claims for political positions.
We need to do absolutely everything in our power to get back to normal life. The level of vaccine hesitancy in South Africa is worryingly high. Government should be running a massive campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated and to dispel fears around vaccine safety.
We welcome the relaxation of some restrictions, but the President should have gone further and removed all restrictions that are costing South Africans their jobs. Specifically, the curfew and the ban on alcohol should have been fully lifted. The curfew is doing irreparable damage to restaurants, small towns and tourism. There is so much illicit alcohol available that it frankly makes no difference to transmission, but a big difference to tax receipts and jobs. Enough with irrational, arbitrary regulations such as forcing restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 8pm but food at 9pm. Has anyone in government ever actually run a business?
Parliament needs to be reconvened to deal with the multiple serious challenges battering South Africa. Now is not the time for heads in the sand, it’s time for cool heads around the table to provide the solutions needed to secure our future.