South African business organisations that banded together in a campaign called Business for Ending Lockdown – which argues that “South Africa’s lockdown is medically futile, costing lives, wiping out savings and destroying the economy” – have accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of misrepresenting Covid-19 coronavirus risks and continuing with a harmful lockdown.
Notwithstanding the announcement by Ramaphosa on Wednesday of a further easing of lockdown restrictions and a move to alert level 1, Business for Ending Lockdown said government continued to “advocate unnecessary and harmful restrictions on basic economic freedoms, civil liberties, trade and commerce”.
Russell Lamberti, speaking on behalf of Business for Ending Lockdown, reiterated that while lockdown level 1 “was less economically restrictive than level 2”, the business collective still believed that “the remaining restrictions continue to damage key sectors of the economy and leave many businesses unable to operate at their full potential”.
He said this hindered the creation of employment, which the economy desperately needs.
“This has negative knock-on effects on other sectors, whether or not they are permitted to operate fully,” said Lamberti.
He said the campaign specifically views “as problematic” the fact that “international travel remained restricted and comes with unnecessary prohibitive health regulations for travellers”.
According to Lamberti, these restrictions will “curtail business travel and tourism”.
Business for Ending Lockdown also lamented the restrictions that remained on the alcohol industry, with Ramaphosa yesterday having announced that the sale of liquor would be limited to between Monday and Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Lamberti said liquor ought to be sold even on weekends.
Regarding the new rules on gatherings for social, religious, political and other reasons as long as the number of people does not exceed 50% of the normal capacity of a venue, with up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings, the campaign said such would “leave room for confusion, impose complex logistical restrictions, and remain prohibitive to religious gatherings and entertainment services”.
Yet another bone of contention for Business for Ending Lockdown is the retention of the curfew, although now between midnight and 4am. Lambert said such was “an exercise in arbitrary control, restricts freedom of movement, and prohibits many nightlife and night-time services”.
The campaign also bemoaned the continuation of the state of disaster, saying it allowed for “arbitrary policy decisions which undermine investment certainty”.
Another aspect of the remaining restrictions that appears to not sit well with Business for Ending Lockdown is the continued compelling of citizens by government to wear masks, practice sanitising and social distancing.
The campaign said these requirements imposed “excessive inconveniences and frictions on many businesses and serves to perpetuate a climate of fear and isolation which contributes to generally inhibited trading activity”.
It said the president’s address “unfortunately misrepresented the risks of Covid-19 and continued with the policy of mandating single-risk management strategies for millions of different people in a complex society”, and called on Ramaphosa to lift all remaining restrictions to ensure the resuscitation of the economy.