This week President Cyril Ramaphosa was hauled to court by disgruntled opposition political parties and faced stiff criticism from civil society organisations for the legality of the lockdown measures he implemented to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
But he was praised by US ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks, who said the country had done a “fantastic job” in its early implementation of stringent measures and had averted the possible infection of many citizens that could have led to a significant number of deaths.
South Africa-born Marks pledged to continue the camaraderie between the two nations.
She said the US would hold an investment summit in Washington in September, which Ramaphosa and other African heads of state were expected to attend.
“It’s not easy and I understand that some citizens have questioned some of the measures or have even been unhappy with them. However, had such stringent measures not been put in place, the spread of the virus would have been far worse,” said Marks.
Ramaphosa and his command council were criticised by opposition parties – mainly the DA and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) – as well as civil society organisations for the harsh lockdown regulations.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said the lockdown had cost more lives than it had saved and the party was going to court.
The Freedom Front Plus had filed its own application challenging the legality of the measures.
Marks said South Africa had benefited from the implementation of uniform measures throughout the country, unlike the US, where the president did not decide what measures would be put in place.
It was up to each state governor make that decision. She said this as a possible reason for the high infection numbers.
Although the US had been criticised about delaying the implementation of regulations, Marks was quick to point out that President Donald Trump had done everything in his power to control the spread and effects of the pandemic.
Marks placed the blame on the World Health Organisation (WHO), saying it was unfortunate that it had delayed declaring Covid-19 a pandemic.
It had done so only on March 11, by which time the US had put in place some measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Marks said the US had been at the forefront of providing help to South Africa.
“I am proud to announce that 1 000 state-of-the-art ventilators manufactured in the US have been donated to South Africa,” said Marks, who spearheaded the initiative.
The first consignment of 50 ventilators arrived this week.
Apart from donations, she said the US would support local businesses to ensure that they would stay afloat.
“Some of the aid is being procured in South Africa. Our office of defence will donate 750 000 PPE [personal protective equipment] masks that were manufactured in South Africa.”
Marks said the US was still honouring a 17-year HIV funding programme that would continue this year.
She said the investment summit in September would help to foster more investment opportunities on the continent, but particularly in South Africa.
Marks remained hopeful that the summit would go ahead uninterrupted, adding that the date was still to be decided.
It would be announced “when all the plans have been put in place”.
Marks said there had been “unfortunate rumours” that she had been “almost” infected with Covid-19 at a dinner held in March at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida, home.
Reports in the US later revealed that several people at the party had tested positive for the virus.
She said the reports were inaccurate: “The infected individual was in a different building, and nowhere near me. I later had a test for the virus, which came back negative.”