DA instructs lawyers to proceed with court application against certain category-based economic Covid-19 relief

Please find attached soundbite from John Steenhuisen MP.

The DA has today instructed its lawyers to proceed with our application to the High Court to seek urgent relief to prevent the unlawful use of B-BBEE status, race, gender, age or disability as criteria in relation to economic or other forms of relief or assistance. This after the Minister for Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, missed the 17:00 deadline yesterday to provide an explanation for her department’s about-turn on the use of race and B-BBEE as evaluating criteria for government’s SMME Debt Relief Fund.

It must be noted that our case is different from the litigation filed by Solidarity because we are not merely contesting the use of race-based policies for financial relief in one Ministry, but discrimination as a whole and across each and every sector of our economy during a National State of Disaster.

We believe that under such dire circumstances, it is unconscionable for government to cherry pick who is deserving of assistance based on a set of arbitrary criteria, bearing in mind that black workers and employees will lose their jobs should their company be denied assistance purely because it is white-owned.

After intitally denying this race-based relief a month ago – calling a leaked report stipulating the B-BBEE criteria “fake news” – Minister Ntshavheni confirmed on Tuesday, during a joint meeting of the Portfolio and Select Committees for Small Business Development, that race would indeed be a determining factor. It is clear that their desperate scramble to initially quell the justified public outrage was nothing but a PR exercise.

Through this court action the DA is seeking for it to be declared impermissible and unlawful for government to use B-BBEE status, race, gender, age or disability as a criteria for determining which persons or entities will receive economic or other forms of relief or assistance. Our application will seek to establish a precedent across all sectors under the Disaster Management Act.

The DA will not allow the crisis of this pandemic, which affects all South Africans, to be used to divide our nation. We cannot have the President continuously calling for unity and asking all South Africans to contribute to the relief funds, while his ministers then hide behind B-BBEE regulations to deny certain citizens fair access to these funds.

The irony the ANC government does not seem to grasp is that businesses that are now being denied emergency relief because the owner is white employ huge numbers of black employees. These are the people whose families will be denied an income and who will face incredible hardship and hunger if the ANC gets away with this.

It is unconscionable for the ANC government to play race politics at a time like this. To ask someone’s race before deciding whether they are worth rescuing is something we never thought we’d see again in South Africa. And it is a terrible indictment on the ruling party that they have to be taken to court to be forced to serve and protect all citizens of this country equally.

Level 4: A copy and paste of Level 5, disastrous for livelihoods

Ultimately, there is not enough to distinguish lockdown Level 4 from Level 5. This will be disastrous for millions of lives and livelihoods. Government has essentially smuggled through an extension of the hard lockdown under the guise of easing restrictions.

If government had gone with the DA’s Smart Lockdown proposal, more of the economy could have been opened without compromising safety.

Government’s approach is unnecessarily blunt and restrictive, with simply no justification for many of the arbitrary rules and restrictions.

The DA proposed an incentives-driven approach in which government specifies the safety measures that must be in place before a business can open, and businesses then decide if they are willing or able to meet the required safety standards.

This empowers employers, employees and customers within a reasonable set of safety rules. Reasonableness and compliance go hand in hand. Government’s unreasonable approach may undermine the whole Covid-19 response by generating an explosion of non-compliance.

The DA’s approach incentivises businesses and people to comply, maximising jobs and tax revenue. Government’s forces many to remain closed, potentially forcing them underground – to trade illegally or die.

By way of example, no-one will now be able to legally sell or pay for a haircut, which will have devastating consequences for many working class people who run salons and barbers out of their homes to support their families. The DA’s Level 4 would allow hairdressers to operate, as long as they can meet a specified level of safety.

Some of the decisions are draconian, such as the continued ban on smoking and sale of hot food. Will sugar and fatty foods be next? The President told us smoking would be allowed in Level 4 – but the command council has now backtracked on this.

Others are simply irrational – not based on a consideration of public safety at all, which is the whole purpose of a lockdown. E-commerce (online shopping with delivery) for example is not allowed. Other countries are looking to e-commerce to keep their small businesses afloat, save jobs and service customers. Here we’ve chosen arbitrary ministerial diktat over harnessing individual creativity and decision-making.

Surely the only criterion that matters here is the risk of spreading the virus. If this risk is minimal, then the business should be allowed to trade. Any other decision is purely authoritarian.

One gets the sense that the call for comment was merely a box-ticking exercise, since little has changed from what the government proposed last week, notwithstanding the 70 000 submissions.

Except on the matter of exercise, for which the solution is incomprehensible. Government seems to have forgotten the whole reason we locked down in the first place – to ensure our wellbeing. Now citizens are told they can only exercise between 6am and 9am – as if exercising after work in the evening is somehow bad for them. If anything, this is less safe, as people will all be out at the same time.

And what of those who need to leave home at 5am to get to work? But then again, the ANC has long-since stopped caring about poor people. Or perhaps, for them, the working day doesn’t start before 9am?

Other restrictions are well-intended, such as the continued ban on alcohol, but will have severe negative unintended consequences. This will broaden business opportunities for the mafia and starve our fiscus of needed revenue. The DA suggested reasonable restrictions on times and quantity of legal alcohol sales.

The common thread running through all the restrictions is government’s fundamental lack of trust in the people of South Africa, who are being treated as children rather than adults. People are not being trusted with data or empowered with any reasonable degree of personal decision-making.

The curfew demonstrates this best of all. The DA will consider challenging its legality. President Ramaphosa’s cabinet seems to be indulging in all its nanny-state fantasies. It may soon find itself having to justify these in court, where reasonableness still prevails.

DA welcomes judgment rejecting ANC power grab in Tshwane

The DA welcomes the judgment handed down today in the North Gauteng High Court in the matter of Democratic Alliance and 3 others v The Premier for the Province of Gauteng and 16 others, in which the decision by the Gauteng provincial government to place the City of Tshwane under administration was overturned. The judgment also ordered all ANC and EFF council members to attend future council meetings unless they have a lawful reason to be absent.

This is an important victory not only for the residents of Tshwane, but for each and every citizen residing in towns and cities across South Africa, as this judgment will protect them too from the undemocratic interference of ANC-led provincial governments. Today was indeed a victory for democracy.

Next year’s Local Government Elections will no doubt see the ANC lose even more municipalities to minority governments. If they were allowed to get away with this blatant power grab in Tshwane, nothing would have prevented ANC-led provincial governments from doing the same wherever voters sent them packing.

In his scathing judgment, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo laid the reason and blame for the dysfunctional Tshwane council firmly at the feet of the ANC and EFF councillors whose continued walkouts left the council unable to conduct its business. He rightly points out that these councillors were prioritising their own party political agendas over their service to the people.

He was equally scathing of the inability of Gauteng COGTA MEC, Lebogang Maile – and by extension, the Gauteng Executive Council and Premier David Makhura – to bring these truant councillors to book despite having the power of the Systems Act Code to do so, saying that this would clearly have been a more appropriate course of action than the dissolution of council.

In the light of the judge’s devastating comments on the role Maile played in the collapse of the Tshwane council, we have no choice but to call for his immediate suspension. The DA will also now consider taking action in the NCOP, where the ANC was equally complicit in their eagerness and haste to support this power grab.

This judgment confirms what the DA has said since the start of the disruptions to the Tshwane council: that this decision to place Tshwane under administration was nothing but a poorly disguised attempt to take back, undemocratically, what the ANC had lost at the ballot box. This is why today’s judgment is a big victory for democracy, and a serious setback for those intent on undermining it.

The DA is proud of our colleagues who continued to serve the residents of Tshwane so selflessly during this trying time, and especially during the period of lockdown. We welcome this vindication, along with the cost order issued against the provincial government. The court has further ordered that council must be reinstated and that a council meeting must take place five days after level 5 lockdown has ended.

The DA is ready for this. We have never stopped working to ensure that Tshwane residents receive top quality services, and we look forward to doing so unencumbered by the undemocratic schemes of the ANC and its allies.

DA to challenge government’s race-based Covid relief for SMMEs in court

The DA has given the Minister for Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, until 17:00 today, Wednesday 29 April 2020, to clarify her statements regarding the use of B-BBEE as evaluating criteria for government’s SMME Debt Relief Fund. If she does not respond satisfactorily by this deadline, the DA will take legal steps to ensure that all South Africans are treated equally in qualifying for government’s Covid-19 relief measures.

This follows the minister’s about-turn yesterday during a joint meeting of the Portfolio and Select Committees for Small Business Development where, upon being questioned by DA MP Tim Brauteseth, she confirmed that all applications to the SMME Debt Relief Fund would be evaluated using B-BBEE principles. Earlier, similar selective, race-based relief criteria were announced for both the tourism and agriculture sectors.

On 24 March Minister Ntshavheni dismissed reports of race-based Covid relief for SMMEs as “fake news” following a leaked document indicating this requirement. However it soon became clear that the document was not fake, and was confirmed to have been an earlier draft of the Department’s proposed regulations. The Department quickly assured South Africans that all applicants would be considered equally, regardless of race.

Yesterday’s about-turn by the minister makes a mockery of government’s SMME relief measures, and is an insult to thousands of struggling small business owners who not only contribute hundreds of millions of Rands in tax revenue, but who also employ thousands of people who now stand to lose their jobs, many of whom are black.

It also makes a mockery of the President’s appeal for unity in the fight to overcome this pandemic and its economic effects. These ministers who are intent on excluding South Africans from emergency relief measures because of the colour of their skin represent President Ramaphosa and his government. Unless he calls them to order and reverses this decision, it must be understood that this is indeed his position too. South Africans need to know where he stands on this.

Our lawyers wrote to Minister Ntshavheni on 10 April seeking clarification on whether or not the race of business owners and their employees is relevant to the distribution of funds, as this information is required on the application form on her Department’s website. She is yet to respond to this request.

Following her comments yesterday, it is crucial that the minister explain, as a matter of urgency, how race will be considered in evaluating applications, or what the legal basis is for making race a criterion in awarding disaster relief funding. Specifically, we want the minister to answer the following by 17:00 today:

  1. In terms of what law or policy is race considered in the evaluation of applications?
  2. What role does race play in evaluating applications for relief?

If we do not receive a satisfactory answer by this deadline, the DA will approach the High Court for appropriate, urgent relief to prevent the unlawful use of race in relation to Covid-19 funds, and unfair discrimination on the basis of race.

Level 4 Lockdown: DA proposes wider opening of the economy

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today submitted our comments to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Trade & Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel in response to their request for comments around the Draft Framework for Sectors – Level 4 only – of their risk-adjusted strategy. We submitted two documents, one responding to their Level 4 proposals (including two attachments) and the other to their proposal for a curfew.

The move to Level 4 of the lockdown was meant to allow for a greater level of economic activity, but there is far too little to distinguish Level 4 from Level 5, and thus Level 4 inadequately balances the looming economic crisis.

The DA supports a much wider opening of the economy. Firstly, there is no evidence to say why this should not happen. There has been little to no transparency around the data or analysis being used to guide government’s response. Secondly, a wider opening can still achieve the same level of public safety if the government changes its approach from one based on force to one based on trust.

Furthermore, government has taken the approach of state control using force, choosing to centralise draconian powers in the hands of incapable ministers and enforce compliance by deploying 75 000 ill-trained South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members, many armed with live ammunition. Instead, it should be providing direction by harnessing the creativity, incentives and goodwill of everyone, within a reasonable set of rules.

At the heart of both our submissions lies the clear lack of trust on the part of government towards citizens. This supposed move to a “softer” version of lockdown has exposed the fact that government does not trust citizens and stakeholders to make a smart lockdown work. It does not trust them to make sensible decisions in the workplace, it does not trust them with the data on which it supposedly bases its decisions around the lifting or imposition of restrictions, and it doesn’t trust them with their personal movement and physical distancing.

The DA supported the initial call for a hard lockdown of the country and economy. It was the right thing to do, given the urgent need for time to prepare our healthcare response to the imminent threat of the pandemic. We also supported, in principle, the announcement last week of a move towards a softer phase of this lockdown to allow for some economic activity to return and for people to return to work. This was in line with our consistent call for the protection of lives and the protection of livelihoods to be carefully balanced.

We did, however, state that we would reserve further comment until we had seen the details of this risk-adjusted, phased approach. And it is indeed in the details where it has become clear that this is nowhere near the opening of the economy that is required.

Regarding what government has called “System 1” – the alert system that determines which level of restriction should apply nationally, in provinces and in districts – there is simply no way for anyone to know why a decision to move up or down between the levels is taken because the full data is not known. These decisions must be based on accurate, localised data on both community transmission as well as healthcare capacity, and yet government does not make this data publicly available. It expects citizens to trust its decisions, but it does not trust citizens with the information.

The DA has consistently called for the regular publication of this data, ever since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in South Africa on 5 March. We sent the Presidency the requirements for such a data dashboard. If government wants buy-in and compliance, it must return the trust.

The classification of industries that are allowed to trade under this supposed softer level of lockdown – what government calls “System 2” – also has fundamental flaws. Firstly, it is far too incremental. In other words, there is not nearly enough of a difference between levels 5 and 4, and there will be no meaningful increase in economic activity, leaving millions locked out and destitute.

Secondly, the sector-wide approach, where the risk assessment is applied to an entire industry and not the many and varied types of businesses inside that sector, is far too blunt a tool for the job.

And thirdly, the criteria whereby industries can return to work are too subjective. While we agree that having an acceptably low transmission risk is crucial, the second and third criteria – whether a business is “of critical value to the economy”” and whether it is “under severe near-term economic stress” – leave far too much room for subjective interpretation. If it is the risk of transmission that is keeping the economy closed down, then surely only the first criteria should matter. All businesses are of critical importance to the economy and most of them are under economic stress. If they can operate safely, they should be allowed to open.

Our second submission, dealing with the unjustified imposition of a curfew, could not have happened on a more symbolic day. As we awake to the news on Freedom Day that thousands of prisoners are to be released from jail and granted the freedom to terrorise South Africans, responsible citizens will now be subject to a curfew enforced by 75 000 soldiers.

The DA is alarmed by the lack of trust demonstrated by the government in the people of South Africa through the imposition of this curfew, likely backed by military force. This is an extraordinary limitation of civil liberties that should meet an extraordinarily high threshold before it can be justified. It does not meet that threshold in this case, and the DA is vehemently opposed to the curfew as a matter of principle.

Research by the Human Sciences Research Council showed that, during the first month of hard lockdown, 99% of citizens did comply with the lockdown regulations. This shows that the people deserve to be trusted, not coerced. However, mere days before the curfew was announced for the first time, South Africans learned that the government had resolved to deploy an additional 73 180 soldiers onto the country’s streets, bringing the total number of soldiers deployed to 75 460. This means that nearly the entire South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be on the streets of our communities.

It is therefore highly likely that the SANDF will be used to enforce the curfew between 20:00 and 05:00 every night. This would mean that soldiers are granted the discretionary power to decide whether someone who travels between 20:00 and 05:00 faces a bona fide medical emergency or is performing an essential service. This grants far too wide a scope of powers to the SANDF.

Given that we have already witnessed horrendous acts of abuse, torture and even alleged murder by the SANDF when only 2 280 soldiers were deployed, the use of nearly the entire military to enforce the curfew is likely to unleash a wave of abuses by the security forces.

Instead of a military curfew, we need to dramatically enhance social mobilisation efforts through education and raising awareness. There is no need for militarisation and a formal curfew when citizens understand and trust the need for the limitations on freedom of movement. No amount of force or coercion will bolster compliance in the absence of understanding and trust.

If the government fails to heed our warning to rescind the planned enforcement of a military curfew, the DA reserves our right to challenge the move in court, because we place our trust in citizens rather than in coercion.

DA welcomes adoption of Smart Lockdown plan

The DA welcomes the announcement by President Ramaphosa to control the spread of the coronavirus going forward by adopting what we have called a “Smart Lockdown” model.

This phased, risk-adjusted model, whereby restrictions are lifted as and when the data suggests it is safe, is critical to protecting precious jobs and ensuring that the livelihood of millions of South Africans is saved. The DA has called for precisely this approach in our Smart Lockdown Plan, released ten days ago. It is encouraging that we are able to cooperate in this way, and to know that we are on the same page as we face this daunting challenge.

And while we welcome this announcement, we await further details of how this model will affect the various sectors of our economy and society before we make further comments. It is important to establish absolute certainty around this new phased approach, and so the details must be clear and unambiguous. We cannot have the issue muddied by conflicting statements from various ministers.

What is also crucial is that any such a phased lifting of lockdown restrictions is accompanied by both a massive increase in testing, tracing and tracking, and the publishing of detailed and reliable data on a range of Covid-19 information which must include localised breakdowns of testing data, infection and mortality data and healthcare data such as ICU beds, ventilator availability and PPE stocks.

Without such transparent data in the public domain, it is impossible to know when, where and to what extent restrictions on activities are necessary. Sharing this data with the media and public is also critical to maintaining support and ensuring compliance with ongoing Covid-19 measures.

This regular data release must also cover all aspects of the economic stimulus plan, including lists of businesses applying for and receiving SMME relief, employees receiving TERS relief, details of UIF payments and details of both Covid Grant payments and Unemployment Grant payments.

The DA shared with President Ramaphosa today a detailed breakdown of the data required, as well as our latest proposals for the immediate lifting of certain restrictions.

We have long maintained that the only way to move out of a hard lockdown is to make up for whatever benefits we were getting from this lockdown with equally effective smart interventions. The better we are at implementing these smart interventions – such as increased testing & tracing, good hand hygiene and effective social distancing protocols for all sectors and business types – the less we have to rely on a paralysing lockdown.

We welcome the requirement for the wearing of facemasks on public transport and the call for them to be worn in all public areas. We reiterate our call for reusable cloth masks to be given out free to those who cannot afford them. It has been proven that wearing a cloth facemask is an extremely effective way of slowing down the spread of the virus, and it is relatively inexpensive, given the massive costs of the other interventions. We have calculated that to supply three cloth masks to 40 million South Africans who cannot afford their own would cost around R600 million, which would be money well spent. We urge the President to make this an integral part of the strategy going forward.

We also reiterate our call for certain restrictions to be lifted immediately. All stores selling essential items should be permitted to sell ALL items in their stores, including electronics, stationary, books, beauty products and cigarettes. Stores selling non-essential items should be allowed to open immediately for purposes of fulfilling delivery orders only. Similarly, restaurants and fast food outlets should be able to open their kitchens for home delivery. All e-commerce stores should be allowed to operate.

What is also urgently required, if we are to see an additional 73,000 SANDF members to be deployed on our streets, is a body of Parliamentary oversight to guard against overreach and abuse of power. We urge the Speaker of Parliament to immediately agree to our request for the formation of an ad-hoc committee to this effect.

And finally, the most important aspect of any Covid-19 strategy is one already mentioned by the President in his address on Tuesday evening: The economic reforms that must follow this lockdown period. If we don’t urgently fix the underlying structural defects in our economy – including SOE reform, labour legislation reform and energy sector reform – and if we don’t walk away from proposed destructive policies such as Expropriation Without Compensation, the NHI and asset prescription, we will not survive this crisis with our economy intact.

The DA supports the efforts of President Ramaphosa to combat the spread of the virus and to bring economic relief to those affected. And we will most certainly support him in instituting the much-needed economic reforms that will ensure that South Africa emerges from this crisis with the best fighting chance.

Crucial questions need answering around lockdown

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes that there is growing and broad agreement on a gradual return to economic activity, and ahead of President Ramaphosa’s address to the nation this evening, the DA respectfully puts forward the following questions, requests, and suggestions which should be addressed in his speech. I have a virtual meeting scheduled with the President for 16:30 today, and I will put these questions to him directly. Furthermore, we have today sent the President updates to our Covid-19 response working paper, as our contribution to the national decision-making process.

1. We request clarity on the alleged statement by Prof Shabir Mahdi (of Wits University, who heads the public health subcommittee advising the President and his cabinet) revising down the expected number of SA Covid deaths to 45 000 over the next 2-3 years, from an earlier estimate of between 120 000 and 150 000 fatalities. This was reported in a TimesLive article on 21 April. We need to understand if this estimate of 45 000 deaths over 2-3 years factors in a series of lockdowns, or is the estimate before interventions. If the latter, then this revision profoundly impacts SA’s optimal response to this pandemic. A death rate of 45 000 over 2-3 years is broadly in line with SA’s current murder rate and Easter road death rate, neither of which have elicited hard lockdowns in response. Therefore, we request clarity around these alleged comments.

2. We request clarity around Prof Salim Karim’s comments reported by Rapport on Sunday, in an interview with Hanlie Retief, in which he said: “I think we’ve already reaped the benefits of the lockdown. I’m not sure how much more the lockdown can help us.” If this is the view of the government’s leading expert on the coronavirus epidemic, it is important that South Africans know how this view is guiding government’s decisions on the future implementation of a lockdown strategy.

3. We request the immediate implementation of a policy of mandatory cloth masks for all, in all public places. At least 3 free cloth masks should be provided free of charge to all those who are unable to afford masks. Assuming 40 million people require free masks, this would be 120 million masks in all, and would cost an estimated R600 million – a mere fraction of the cost to SA of a single day of hard lockdown. This is particularly important for high-density situations like on public transport and in shops, but should be mandatory in all places where people are not able to keep a 1.5 m distance.

4. We suggest that a suppress-release approach on alcohol availability should be used to relieve pressure on hospitals. This could be generalised or localised depending on circumstances.

5. We suggest that all sectors should have, and publish online, a set of social-distancing protocols in place specific to their context, before re-opening. Furthermore, all businesses should be required to complete a workplace risk assessment and mitigation form. This form must be available on the business premises and website. This will inform the public, policy makers, suppliers and customers of the risks inherent to that business and the mitigation measures which the business has put in place to deal with those risks.

6. As the economy opens up public transport will be a central nexus of human interaction. Three criteria are crucial:

  • Everyone on public transport to be masked.
  • Everyone on public transport to sanitize their hands on entrance and exit.
  • Public transport vehicles to be sanitized regularly.

7. We call for the immediate lifting of all activities listed in our attached document.

8. We request transparent, reliable and up-to-date reporting of key Covid-19 response data. In particular, we request national, provincial and area-specific data around cases, testing, hospital load/capacity and implementation of economic stimulus measures. We believe this to be an entirely reasonable request, given the massive sacrifice South Africans are making to slow the spread and minimise the impact of this disease. Only with this information can we know how best to respond.

Assuming that the expected fatality rate for Covid remains far above other reasons for mortality in South Africa, then a Smart Lockdown strategy (locking down only when, where and to the extent necessary, coupled with more targeted interventions – particularly a massive, rapid-response testing programme and free mandatory masks for all in public) is preferable to a series of hard lockdowns over the coming years. Indeed the President has already suggested that SA will be taking the smart lockdown route. A smart lockdown is simply not possible without accurate, up-to-date, localised, transparent data.

The following data should be available daily and to all:

Indicator Currently available? Available at:
Cases
Total cases (national) Yes https://sacoronavirus.co.za/
Total deaths (national) Yes https://sacoronavirus.co.za/
Total recoveries (national) Yes https://sacoronavirus.co.za/
Testing
Total tests (national) Yes https://sacoronavirus.co.za/
Average time between testing and reporting (national) No
Community health worker (CHW) infection rate (national) No
Results of continuous random testing for prevalence and symptoms classified by:
– Age
– Area- HIV status
No
Total testing capacity per day (district/area) No
Total tests performed per day (area/district) by

-Type of test (antigen vs antibody)

-Randomised vs targeted

-CHW or general public

No
Case numbers by area/district

-Daily new cases

-Total cases

-Active cases

-Total recoveries

-Daily deaths

-Total deaths

No
Hospital load/capacity
Total hospital capacity (national)

-Number of beds

-Number of ICU beds

-Number of ventilators

No
Number of patients hospitalised (national)

-All

-Covid-related

No
Number of patients requiring ICU/ventilator (national)

-All

-Covid-related

No
Number of Covid patients by area/district

-Total

-Daily new cases

-Number requiring ICU/ventilator

No
Total hospital capacity and occupancy by area/district

-ICU beds

– Ventilators

-ICU beds used by COVID patients

No
PPE
Total supply of PPE

-PPE per health worker (area/district)

-Cloth masks per person (area/district)

No
Economic support
SMME support (DSBD Debt Relief Fund)

-List of business applying

-List of businesses receiving

-Rand amount loaned per business

-Total Rand amount loaned

No
Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS)

-Number employees receiving relief

-Rand amount of total relief given

-List of businesses that have received relief for employees including Rand amount

No
UIF payments

-Monthly rand amount paid out to the unemployed

-Number of unemployed receiving relief

No
Covid grant payments

-Rand amount paid per month

-Number of recipients paid per month

No
Basic Income Grant payments to the unemployed not on UIF or grants (R350 per month)

-Rand amount paid per month

-Number of recipients paid per month

No
IDC/DTI funding

-Number of firms applying for funding

-Number of firms receiving funding

No
Solidarity fund

-Rand value of assets

-Rand value and details of expenditure

No

DA proposes Smart Lockdown as a sustainable approach to save lives

The Democratic Alliance’s Policy Unit has been working tirelessly with healthcare and financial experts, policy specialists, and our Shadow Cabinet to devise a sustainable and flexible Smart Lockdown to supplement government’s coronavirus response effort, while protecting the South African economy and the livelihoods which depend on it.

We will be submitting our Smart Lockdown working paper to President Cyril Ramaphosa today. As a working paper, the document can be easily updated and amended to mirror the changing circumstances surrounding South Africa’s fight against Covid-19. This is part of our contribution to work collaboratively in the fight against this pandemic.

Managing Covid-19 will require a marathon, not a sprint. Realistically, South Africa may have to contain the coronavirus right up until a vaccine is widely available in 18-24 months’ time. We must hope for a shorter period but plan pragmatically for a long one.

In addition to this, South Africa was already in recession before the coronavirus hit. Under a hard lockdown we are heading toward an economic depression. It is going to be very hard to fund an adequate health response over that time period, while also bridging poor households and small businesses to the other side. Therefore, we need to contain this virus over the coming year and beyond in such a way that as many of us as possible can get back to work.

There is mounting support globally for a phased strategy and moving between different stages of restriction. It would be imprudent to call for a complete easing of all restrictions relating to the current lockdown, as it would likely risk a sudden spike in infections. At the same time, continued hard lockdown conditions will increase the number of unemployed citizens, and close businesses which will not be in a position to reopen after the crisis. A phased strategy gives South Africa the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances, and it gives people an incentive to comply with regulations.

We believe that it is a false choice to distinguish between a loss of lives and a loss of livelihoods. Given that economically active citizens pay for our food, hospitals, and doctors, an economic collapse as the result of a continued hard lockdown will also equate to a loss of life. South Africa needs a strategy to balance the containment of Covid-19 and the containment of the economic fallout as a result of the lockdown, addressing the twin threat to South African lives: the spread of infection and grinding economic recession.

The DA has devised the Smart Lockdown for the following reasons:

  1. The lockdown in its current form is not a feasible approach to contain the coronavirus in South Africa. In our context it is impossible for individuals living in townships and informal settlements to self-isolate, to practice the level of hygiene necessary to kill the virus, and to acquire the protective equipment necessary to keep the virus at bay.
  2. Regardless of when the lockdown ends, South Africa cannot immediately go back to business as usual. We need a phased and flexible approach to ease the lockdown while ensuring that we contain the spread of the coronavirus, bearing in mind that Covid-19 will not simply disappear once the lockdown is lifted. Our Smart Lockdown is a sustainable and implementable solution to this.
  3. South Africa cannot afford a hard lockdown. The economic repercussions of a hard and extended lockdown will be disastrous for the South African economy, and thousands of taxpaying citizens will emerge from it unemployed as a result. Furthermore, South Africa does not have the fiscal space necessary to accommodate the severe assault a hard lockdown will unleash on our economy. Leading economists Jameel Ahmad and Dawie Roodt have already predicted that the South African GDP will contract between 4 and 6% in the second quarter of 2020. We must be urgently planning to address this scenario once the lockdown begins to ease.

How does the Smart Lockdown work?

The DA’s Smart Lockdown functions similarly to a load shedding grid or the different stages of water restrictions previously seen during the Western Cape drought, both strategies that are familiar to South Africans. It provides different stages of lockdown relative to the national coronavirus infection rate for every sector of the South African economy and society. The complete Smart Lockdown working paper can be found here. In addition to the introduction of the Smart Lockdown, our Covid-19 strategy for managing lives and livelihoods includes:

  • Moving between lockdown stages (different specified stages of economic and social activity) in response to what the data is telling us e.g. about new daily infections and hospital capacity.
  • Massive rollout of testing, tracking, tracing, and treatment coupled with transparent reporting of data.
  • Massive build of healthcare capacity coupled with transparent reporting of progress data.
  • Enabling and strict enforcement of the wearing of protective face masks in all public areas.
  • The roll out of a comprehensive public education campaign: hygiene, diagnosis, handling. This includes health protocols for public spaces and workplaces;
  • Assistance to the high-risk group to continue isolating where possible.
  • Strict border control.
  • Bold economic stimulus/relief package
  • Sweeping reforms in government and to our economy

Our flexible and implementable Smart Lockdown is demonstrated in the following graphic:

The Smart Lockdown is comprised of four stages:

Red: Stage 4 (hard lockdown)

Orange: Stage 3 (soft lockdown)

Yellow: Stage 2 (soft open)

Green: Stage 1 (open)

The details of each stage can be found in the extended working document, and can be amended in conjunction with relative stakeholders and government officials.

By implementing the Smart Lockdown, South Africa can not only continue to contain the coronavirus outbreak, but ensure the revival of our ailing economy. Furthermore, through stimulus packages and policy reform we can cushion South Africa against the economic fallout of the existing lockdown, and utilise the proposed public education campaigns to begin to prepare the nation for the necessary lifestyle changes we will have to implement once the lockdown eases and is gradually lifted.

We need to remember that the South African context is unique, and that a tailored approach to contain the virus is necessary to protect us against not only the threat of the coronavirus to our lives, but the threat of contingency measures to contain the virus on our livelihoods. Through our Smart Lockdown, we believe that we can protect both lives and livelihoods, ensuring that South Africa defeats the coronavirus and emerges from the outbreak with a capable and competitive economy which will sustain and create jobs, and ultimately pay for the provision of health care services at the scale required to defeat the coronavirus. This is the only way forward, and President Cyril Ramaphosa must consider our measured, flexible and smart approach to South Africa’s coronavirus lockdown as a matter of urgency.

A lockdown extension will create an economic disaster

Please find attached soundbite from John Steenhuisen MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the intention of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet to extend the nationwide lockdown until late April to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus in South Africa.

We would prefer a gradual phasing out of the current lockdown over the coming weeks as opposed to a continuation of the severe and economically-crippling regulations we currently see.

Our great concern is that President Ramaphosa has justified this extension as if we face a binary choice between health concerns and economic concerns.

We believe it is a great mistake to think in terms of lives versus livelihoods. This is a false dilemma. Rather, the difficult trade-offs to be made are between lives lost or damaged by Covid-19, and lives lost or damaged by the drastic measures to contain its spread.

We need to understand that we have limited resources and that we need to make difficult decisions taking into account both seen and unseen costs. This is the role of government: to make tough choices for the greater good for the greater number, while not forgetting that behind every statistic is a human story.

Each death resulting from the virus is a tragedy. But so is each death resulting from caged citizens and frustrated law enforcers, and so is each victim of home violence. And each malnourished child. And each newly unemployed South African.

The absence of empirical data and modelling makes it very difficult to simply agree that a lockdown extension may be an effective means to curb the spread of Covid-19. The resulting economic fallout now means that it is not only lives which are threatened by the virus, but livelihoods by our economic and financial collapse as a result of further lockdown regulations.

Decisions made at this level, and which have such dire repercussions on the economic wellbeing of South Africa, must be rooted in scientific research, and pragmatic policy positions. It is essential therefore that government clearly shares with South Africans accurate data, as well as the exact empirical metrics that success, or otherwise, will be measured against, and that will determine the end of the lockdown period. This is the only way we can ensure that once the lockdown is lifted, South Africans still have jobs to return to.

The DA has been working tirelessly with industry experts, international best practice models, and health policy specialists to compile a lockdown grid which outlines various levels of regulation applicable to different stages of coronavirus infection in South Africa. This will allow the lockdown to be sustained while ensuring that the South African economy does not collapse in the process. It will also assist in keeping the economy moving, protecting jobs and livelihoods whilst ensuring that we continue to contain the virus.

We will be finalising this model with our Shadow Cabinet tomorrow, following which we will submit it to the President for consideration. There is no binary choice between a loss of life to coronavirus and a loss of life to the poverty which faces hundreds of thousands of South Africans who may no longer have a job to return to or an income in their households should the lockdown be extended.

In the meantime the following are essential amendments which need to be enacted to ensure the sustainability and credibility of the lockdown, which relies on buy-in from citizens:

  1. Urgent relaxation on essential goods listings

The banning of the trade of certain goods such as clothing, and other items needs to be relaxed in order to allow for retailers to sell existing stock and for consumers to begin acquiring goods they may urgently need during the lockdown. As such, the list of essential goods must be re-evaluated and amended as a matter of urgency by the Minister of Trade and Industry.

  1. Coronavirus testing must be ramped up

The economic fallout of a lockdown extension can only be justified by a successful nationwide defeat of the coronavirus. It is for this reason that coronavirus testing must be ramped up in the coming weeks, and a comprehensive system of testing, tracking, and tracing must be put into place. Furthermore, government must provide a scheduled briefing on coronavirus statistics every day, bearing in mind that there is often a lag in information available and that existing data is often not credible.

  1. BBBEE requirements must be scrapped for SMME aid

It is incomprehensible that during a global pandemic, government still insists on discriminating against ailing businesses based on race-based policy. The racial makeup of a business should not affect its eligibility for financial rescue even under normal circumstances let alone in a national disaster. The President must urgently scrap this policy across all national departments, and fast track the flow of financial aid into the economy to prevent job shedding and further economic decline.

  1. The national budget must be readjusted to fund relief efforts

The President and the Minister of Finance cannot justify billion rand SOE bailouts footed by the taxpayer when the very industries for which they work are at risk of shutting down as a result of the lockdown. The amounts set aside in the current budget to fund SOE bailouts, such as the R16,4 Billion for SAA must be repurposed and released into the economy in the form of business relief.

  1. The Public Wage Bill must be amended to fund relief efforts

If the private sector is sustaining massive losses as a result of lockdown regulations, then the Public Sector Wage Bill, which is already grossly and unnecessarily bloated, needs to be trimmed to redirect funds into the economy. We cannot have government employees buoyed by taxpayer funds while taxpayers lose their jobs.

  1. Parliamentary oversight over the lockdown is essential

Parliament must step into the 21st century and start to convene committees to oversee governance during the lockdown period. All MPs are provided with the necessary resources to work remotely and should be working providing oversight during this time, while fleshing out an urgent economic recovery plan post-lockdown.

An extension of the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa creates a further national disaster: complete economic collapse. We must ensure that in our attempt to protect our country from the coronavirus outbreak, we also protect the livelihoods of our citizens who will be worse off coronavirus-free, but unemployed as a result.

Wishing South Africans a blessed and safe Easter during this uncertain time.

On behalf of the Democratic Alliance I would like to wish all South Africans who observe the Christian faith a blessed and safe Easter. These are uncertain times for our country – and indeed the world – and I hope that you might find comfort and strength in your faith, and in the message of love and sacrifice that accompanies this celebration.

Under normal circumstances, many of you would have spent Easter with your extended family or friends. This is a time when many South Africans would traditionally travel home for the long weekend, or attend religious gatherings. But we are in uncharted territory right now, and we are fast learning new ways of getting through our daily lives. I urge you to please remain committed to the measures put in place to keep us safe. Stay at home, practise good hand hygiene and always maintain sufficient physical distance from others.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be tested in ways we could not have imagined a short while ago. As a nation, and as individuals, we will be stretched to new limits. We will have to deal with stress, anxiety and fear. Many of us could come face to face with the coronavirus, and some of us will experience loss. To get through this, it is important to remember that we are not alone. We must take strength and inspiration from others.

Today, on my Coronacast video, I spoke to a woman from Cape Town called Megan who is one of South Africa’s first Covid-19 survivors. She was one of the first 50 people in the country to be diagnosed with the infection, and she is also one of the first to have been given the all-clear. She shared with me her experience of being sick, as well as her thoughts on how to beat it. I encourage you to read what she has written on her blog about contracting, living with and recovering from Covid-19.

I know that we will cope, as a nation, with these fast-changing circumstances we find ourselves in because we are a resilient people. We have overcome enormous obstacles in our past, and we have emerged stronger and more united. This is no different. We will overcome this challenge, in true South African spirit, and we will rebuild our economy and society with the grit and determination that we are known for.

Stay committed to the fight, stay safe and have a blessed Easter.