While South Africans took to social media to welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lifting of the alcohol and tobacco ban, opposition parties and some organisations were less than pleased with the announcement.
In a statement released on Saturday night, following Ramaphosa’s address to the nation, lobby group AfriForum was adamant that the ban was uncalled for to begin with and its lifting had come far too late.
AfriForum said it was “of the opinion that government cannot be lauded for removing the ban on tobacco products and liquor, as well as interprovincial travel, because these were irrational right from the start.”
“The president had been warned by the country and the world’s foremost experts to act differently, but he succumbed to pressure from his corrupt comrades and could not resist the temptation to hold on to power in an irrational manner.”
AfriForum’s Ernst Roets said: “To thank the president for relaxing the lockdown measures would be like a prisoner thanking his kidnapper when he is set free. We are not suffering from Stockholm syndrome.”
DA leader John Steenhuisen expressed similar sentiments, saying Ramaphosa’s announcement that the country will move from level 3 to level 2 of the lockdown restrictions from midnight on Monday, had come too late as the “damage had been done”, adding that “it is nothing but a capitulation to the real power in the ANC, who desperately want to cling to the ‘new normal’ they have created for South Africa these past five months”.
According to Steenhuisen, the lockdown which came into effect on March 26, “should not be there at all.”
“The lockdown, along with the state of disaster that was again extended for 30 days, only serves to place power and control in a few hands and bypasses government’s legislative arm entirely. Whether they call it level one, two, three or six, it doesn’t matter. It should not be there at all,” he said.
“The only thing the lockdown achieved was the devastation of our economy and the loss of millions of jobs. And that is what President Ramaphosa and his government must take responsibility for.”
He added: “The ANC government has caused devastation on an unimaginable scale to the lives of ordinary South Africans, while they themselves have not experienced a single day without income. Throughout the lockdown crisis, they could not have been more out of touch with the people whose lives they destroyed.”
Like AfriForum, Steenhuisen said that the easing of certain restrictions during level 2, including permitting inter-provincial travel “is not something for which government should now be praised or thanked”. He said the remaining restrictions, including “the ban on international travel, the senseless 10pm curfew and limited school attendance, must all be lifted immediately.”
Meanwhile, the EFF rejected the move from level 3 to level 2, citing that “the relaxation of the regulations is on the basis of manipulated data and mass under testing to rationalise the reopening of the economy at the expense of lives”.
“There are no legitimate positive signs of a decrease in infections in South Africa and Cyril Ramaphosa, in collaboration with the department of health, have conspired to manipulate data and lie about progress in the fight against Covid-19,” the party said.
While political parties were not happy with Ramaphosa’s announcement to move the country to level 2, Business for South Africa welcomed it.
“While government needed to take decisive action to curb the spread of this virus and to reduce the harsh impacts on our society, we must take equally decisive action to rebuild our shattered economy and set it on an accelerated and inclusive growth path,” said the organisation’s Martin Kingston.
“The decision to move to level 2 of the lockdown will enable a quicker recovery process whilst ensuring our collective objective of delivering a new inclusive economic future for South Africa.”
On Saturday, prior to Ramaphosa’s address, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma extended the Covid-19 national state of disaster by another 30 days, to September 15.
During his address, Ramaphosa admitted that it had been an immensely difficult five months, but over the last three weeks, there had been a glimmer of hope with the number of new confirmed cases dropping from a peak of more than 12 000 a day to about 5 000 a day.
“The recovery rate has drastically increased from 48% at the time of my last address, to the current 80%. As a result, Cabinet has decided to reopen other sectors of the economy,” Ramaphosa said.
According to the department of health, as of August 15, a cumulative total of 583 653 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country had been recorded.