LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Dear Mr President, the lockdown must end

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President Cyril Ramaphosa during a visit to assess Mpumalanga's Covid-19 response.
President Cyril Ramaphosa during a visit to assess Mpumalanga's Covid-19 response.

Two readers have written to News24 asking that the President reconsider the lockdown. Here are their letters: 

I get angry when I read about the corruption

Dear Mr President

I hope someone will be able to get this letter to our presidency. 

This letter is written by a woman passionate about our country and all its citizens. A citizen who has rolled up her sleeves and dedicated her life to make a real lasting difference in Cape Town and a woman who got involved in numerous outreaches to help where help is needed, like the farmers in the Northern Cape.

Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, we have a factory that only employs 96 staff, yes a small drop in the massive ocean of unemployment.  But majority of our staff are women from Khayelitsha, who had no formal education or employment. We hand bake and hand-pack cookies to create employment, baking at less than 1% profit margin to create jobs instead of mechanising (then we will only employ 12 factory workers and increase our daily output four-fold if we mechanise).

I have dedicated my life to making a real difference, but Mr Ramaphosa, as a citizen of South Africa, I need to speak up, we can no longer accept status quo as it is now.  

According to harsh predictions, we would have seen over 40 000 deaths right now, 10 million positive cases of Covid-19 (75% being asymptomatic). We supported you on this decision for hard lockdown to get our hospitals to cope with increased demand on ventilators. So many healthcare workers gave their lives to save lives to date. 

The reality is that we didn't reach 25% of predicted figures (which we are extremely grateful for). Yet the three weeks lockdown turned into five weeks, into five months with key industries who employ millions of people, still not allowed to trade.

The so-called assistance through TERS is nothing short of a horror film, as so many people didn't get any payout yet, or are told, as we were, that it is an automated system and no person can override it (after hours and days spent on call centre calls). The Western Cape government assisted us to eventually get through to an individual directly at UIF, but again we were told, we have a legitimate claim, the evidence is there, but they can only assist us after TERS. 

Mr Ramaphosa, the public helped us to keep our doors open in July, and we are heavily dependent on the continued support of the public for August to try and remain trading, as the continued ban on the hospitality industry (not allowing travel for leisure inter-provincially), and restaurants not allowing to serve alcohol and wine farms are closed. With these continued bans, you cut our stream of income supplying to the hospitality industry (65% of our business).

With only one TERS payout for part of April, a statement of "overpayment" for May (which in my proof submitted and agreed upon by UIF that this was incorrect) and status that shows a claim is being processed (for four weeks now same screen on UIF), how are we supposed to keep trading? 

Then I read about corruption,  and all the problems of mismanagement of 26 years of government funds, I get lividly angry. 

For 26 years, where has the upkeep of infrastructure been to government assets? Now we're paying the price for dilapidated infrastructure by a lockdown. Mr Ramaphosa, it was our tax money that was supposed to be used for this.  

We've seen with hard work and proper management from the Western Cape provincial government, new hospitals were built in four weeks. We reached our peak, we coped. In all the media clips I could find, the reason given for lockdown was to prepare our hospitals and levels per region. We coped thanks to hard dedication from Mr Alan Winde and his team.  

Mr Ramaphosa, I publicly invite you to come and visit our factory in Cape Town. To come and see what we do, and what is at stake if this lockdown is not lifted now.

I have friends in the tobacco industry, and yes I smoke too and so does some of our staff.  Why punish those who can make a decision out of their free will to smoke? 

Why are restaurants not allowed to serve alcohol? The Winelands is a key tourist attraction.  Why, Mr Ramaphosa, can people not have the right to choose (with proper safety protocols) to travel for leisure that the hospitality industry can open up again? Mr Ramaphosa, we really had huge trust and faith in your ability to make tough decisions. 

Today we need you to make a tough decision to lift the bans to get back to business, as you are not seeing the devastating effects of children and parents going hungry daily, and to see soup kitchens (completely dependent on public donations) increase day by day. These are people who WANT to work and who HAD work, but no longer can, due to the lockdown. 

Why are ministers and government officials not in jail for corruption? Why has it taken years and Mr Jacob Zuma still roams free?

Mr Ramaphosa I am not a politician and I really don't want to get involved in politics as I love all people of this country - race, colour, age, religious differences are all exactly the same to me, and if you get to know me you will know that is who I am. 

But as citizens of South Africa we can no longer stand by and just sit back and see our beautiful country engulfed in borrowed money which just keeps accumulating.

We need harsh measures to deal with corruption; we need the industry to open up, and we need that farm murders and women abuse to stop now. Employ the same soldiers who are employed by government to patrol every neighbourhood to ensure that the murders stop; that gangster-related deaths stop. 

We have seen the presence of SANDF reduce crime. Deploy them permanently. 

Mr Ramaphosa, from a devoted South African woman, hear our plea today as I know I am speaking out for most of South African citizens.

- Adri Williams from Khayelitsha Cookies

We need a hero

Dear President Ramaphosa

As I write this letter to you I am in despair. The definition of despair is the complete loss or absence of hope. I believe I am like most South Africans when I say I have a complete loss of hope. 

When you Mr President announced the lockdown regulations in March I felt so proud because finally we had a President we could believe in and a President that took action which was necessary for South Africa.

It has been more than four months and no sense of pride remains in me. President Ramaphosa, you have not given us the pride that we should feel as a country. We feel that you have abandoned us.

I want to hear on a weekly basis where you tell us exactly what is happening in our beautiful country, instead of hiding behind your ministers who are supposed to report to you. Not a lot of people believe that you are in charge of this country at the moment. I have always believed you have had it in you to make a difference. 

Where is my president that makes decisions without his cronies whispering in his ear? Where is my president that said he would stand up and make a difference for this country? It doesn't feel like you are our leader because you aren't making the decisions.

Why would you ban the sale of alcohol which impacts on wine farms but want to save SAA?

SAA accounts for 12 000 jobs in South Africa and you are willing to invest R16 billion for the business rescue of SAA. South African wine farms employees 300 000 people, but they are punished for being employed in the private sector.

The sad thing is that I am writing this personal plea and that it will probably never get to you. I still believe that you want to make a difference in this country as I do - but you are being held back from doing so.

Please President Ramaphosa, take a stance against corruption; get your house in order and for once show South Africa that you are in charge and not all these people we see on the news everyday.

We need a hero and we desperately need it to be you.

- From a reader who asked to remain anonymous from Somerset West

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