Please find attached soundbite from John Steenhuisen MP.
The Democratic Alliance will today share with President Ramaphosa a document containing a host of solutions, recommendations and observations around the combating and mitigation of COVID-19 in South Africa. This collection of submissions from our entire Shadow Cabinet – under the working title “Blue Book” – aims to help share the burden of fighting this battle by casting the net wide in search of good ideas.
This coronavirus pandemic has plunged our country, and indeed the world, in an unprecedented crisis. Never before has the need for unity and cooperation been more important. It is in this spirit that the DA Shadow Cabinet members have applied their minds in seeking a wide range of possible solutions to the many challenges we will no doubt face as a country in the coming months.
Following my meeting with the President and other opposition parties, I pledged to him the support of the DA in fighting the spread of the virus and dealing with its economic fallout. I immediately briefed my Shadow Cabinet to explore every possible avenue when it comes to protecting the people of South Africa, not only from the deadly virus itself but also from the economic hardship that will undoubtedly follow. This Blue Book document is the culmination of this effort, and contains recommendations for every government department.
Some of these recommendations – such as those that came from our Finance cluster under the guidance of Geordin Hill-Lewis MP – have already been shared, and even implemented. Our suggestions for a stay in UIF payments by businesses as well as loan repayment holidays have already been taken up by government and some of the commercial banks. It is encouraging that, in this time of crisis, all parties appear to be open to a wide range of ideas, and that political differences have been put aside.
There is, however, much more than can and must be done. And it is our hope that the President and his Cabinet will keep the same open mind when reviewing the submissions in this document.
He will find, for example, crucial steps that can be taken to help protect our Agriculture sector and maintain our country’s food security through this challenging period. There is also a range of ideas to assist teachers in reaching children with learning material while schools are affected by closures. While some of the sections of the document deal with the medium to long-term effects, others such as the healthcare submissions are for urgent implementation as they deal with the state’s capacity to test, screen and treat patients during the peak of the crisis.
Another crucial recommendation is to ensure the protection of the civil liberties of all South Africans during this lockdown through the establishment of an ad hoc committee of the National Assembly which can provide continuous oversight over the national executive authority and organs of state. The DA has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request that she uses the power at her disposal in terms of Rule 253(1)(b) of the Rules of the National Assembly to establish such an ad hoc committee.
There have been numerous worrying reports these past three days of brutality at the hands of the SANDF and police, including instances of shots being fired at civilians and even a report of a man being shot and killed in Vosloorus. These actions are unacceptable in our democracy. We cannot allow such heavy-handed authority to go unchecked, and the establishment of accountability measures are key.
I would like to reiterate the committed support of the DA for the measures undertaken by the President in fighting this common enemy of ours. These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary actions, within the framework of our Constitution and the law. We are one united country as we face this challenge together.
The DA understands the need for bold, decisive actions, and we stand 100% behind the lockdown measures of the next three weeks. In this spirit of cooperation, I trust that the President will receive this document with an open mind and accept the help on offer.