Every covid death and every job lost to the draconian restrictions he announced tonight are on President Ramaphosa now. He is now forcing South Africans to pay the price for his administration’s catastrophic vaccine failures, or “missteps” as he calls them.
The DA has called for a comprehensive parliamentary inquiry into government’s handling of the vaccine programme. There must be accountability for this failure.
To much media fanfare, Ramaphosa personally took delivery of one million AstraZeneca vaccines in February. These alone could have protected 500 000 high-risk individuals from severe disease or death, saving lives and taking pressure off our healthcare system during this inevitable third wave. The DA pleaded with him to administer them as per scientific and WHO advice, but instead he sold them.
South Africans are being battered by the third wave with less than 1% of the population fully vaccinated. Not one single Covax vaccine has been administered. (To think Ramaphosa was planning to rely solely on Covax vaccines.) Today, only 2 289 vaccines were administered. Compare that with Chile, which months ago reached rates of 300 000 jabs a day.
Ramaphosa and his government have had a year to secure an adequate supply of vaccines to protect South African lives and livelihoods from this virus. A year to plan a speedy, efficient rollout programme.
Having spent fifteen months in various levels of lockdown, South Africans should at least be able to expect universal access to life-saving medical treatment.
But he and his government have failed to build healthcare capacity to be able to accommodate all in need. And failed to build track and trace capacity to isolate the virus and break chains of transmission.
All they have delivered are lame excuses and damaging lockdowns.
“Not enough money” is no excuse for failing to vaccinate on weekends. For twice failing to pay Covax deposits. For failing to secure supply from a variety of vaccine suppliers. For failing to enlist additional staffing for expensive Gauteng covid facilities that are therefore standing empty while patients wait in chairs and share oxygen.
In February, National Treasury reserved R15 billion (R6 billion allocated and R9 billion contingency) to fund the vaccine rollout. Government found R150 million for the Digital Vibes scam and has just stumped up another R83 million (over and above the initial R200 million) to keep the 119 Cuban doctors here another twelve months.
“Not enough time” is no excuse for taking over two months to get Johannesburg’s 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Hospital operational after the April fire. The DA-run Western Cape Government took just 4 weeks to start admitting patients to the 850-bed CTICC field Hospital of Hope after gaining access to the site.
So now Ramaphosa is yet again resorting to the blunt instrument of blanket restrictions, the main purpose of which is to give the illusion of action.
Only people who have never started and run a restaurant and who don’t rely on its success would force a restaurant to close with no notice, to cover for their failures. What about all the food sitting in fridges waiting to be sold tomorrow? The government may not plan ahead, but business owners do.
The tourism industry continues to be shut down at a moment’s notice, with the expectation that they should continue servicing their debts and complying with draconian labour legislation, with no support from government at all.
All those who rely for their income on the alcohol industry are also once again being made to pay for government failure.
Every South African is having their civil rights curtailed by a curfew that would not be necessary had government planned ahead and delivered vaccines on time.
None of the individuals who have been entrusted to roll out an efficient vaccine programme and none of those who have decided to shut down parts of the economy face losing their own lives or livelihoods.
They remain on full salary no matter what, and most of them have probably been vaccinated. None of them will need to face their hungry families and explain why they can’t put food on the table. Even Zweli Mkhize who benefitted from the Digital Vibes scam is assured a full salary at the end of the month.
They wheel out excuses about bad luck, but that’s exactly the point. They shouldn’t have expected the vaccine programme to be without challenges. That’s why the DA urged government months ago to order excess vaccines and from a variety of sources.
Unless government is held accountable for their vaccine failures, South Africans will head into a fourth wave in a few months’ time with the population still largely unprotected, still locked down, and still not assured life-saving treatment from our shambolic healthcare system.