Coronavirus: SA's political parties agree to sing from same hymn sheet

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South Africa's political parties have agreed to put aside petty squabbles and work with government to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, which reached 116 confirmed cases by Wednesday.

The country's political party leaders met with President Cyril Ramaphosa at Tuynhuys to discuss government's response to the outbreak and what practical measures could be taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It forms part of the president's national consultation process, which he has prioritised.

He even cancelled his trip to Ethiopia on Thursday to meet with African Union commissioners, requesting a postponement of the gathering.

"The president’s request arises from the priority he is giving to South Africa’s national response to the global Covid-19 pandemic," a statement from his office said."The president is leading the National Command Council, which meets three times a week to coordinate the multi-sectoral response to Covid-19."

Special hub: News, live updates, research and helpful information on coronavirus in SA and the world in one place

Following his meeting with opposition party leaders, Ramaphosa commended them for being eager to work with, rather than against, government.

"We agreed that, as political parties, we want to work together from the same information sheet, send the same message with many voices," Ramaphosa said following the meeting which lasted more than two hours.The parties agreed that the response to Covid-19 needed to be exceptional, immediate and sustained. The politicians, often with very different ideologies, have committed to work together "with unity of purpose, solidarity and top class cooperation".

The head of state also made use of the opportunity to urge South Africans to desist from panic buying."It is important to understand that the supply of goods remains continuous, supply chains remain intact, and there is no need for stockpiling of any items."

DA leader John Steenhuisen thanked the health minister for his response to the crisis, but expressed concern about the effect on the economy. He said it was important to "keep the doors of small businesses open and keep South Africans in jobs".

EFF leader Julius Malema expressed similar thoughts about Ramaphosa and his government's effective response to the unprecedented situation.

However, he, too, had a warning - this time for the private sector, - warning them not to "maximise profits out of this crisis" by hiking prices for essential items such as hand sanitiser, gloves and masks. The private healthcare sector was also not spared."

The only way to avoid nationalisation of those private hospitals is by fully cooperating with the Minister of Health when he needs beds for our sick people."

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