Covid-19: No information was withheld from public, Ramaphosa tells Parliament

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
GCIS
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has denied that Covid-19 information was withheld from South Africans.
  • This comes after DA interim leader John Steenhuisen described the lockdown as the "longest, hardest and most brutal lockdown in the world".
  • Ramaphosa said placing the country under lockdown was the correct decision.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended placing South Africa under lockdown, saying the government had done it with humility and integrity, after being accused of having the "most brutal lockdown in the world" by DA interim leader John Steenhuisen.

Ramaphosa answered questions in a hybrid sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon.

Steenhuisen described South Africa's lockdown as the "longest, hardest and most brutal lockdown in the world".

"Mr President, at the beginning of the pandemic you asked all South Africans to make massive sacrifices. Many have done so and lost their jobs. However, you and your government have not played your part by being transparent with decisions."

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Ramaphosa denied that information has not been shared with the public.

"There is just no reason why any information – modelling or otherwise – shouldn't be disclosed," he said.

He said they hadn't shied away from differing opinions from the scientific community either.

"There have been blips along the way," he admitted.

"I am one of those who say any information should be made public," Ramaphosa said. He added that South Africans were very discerning.

Humility

"Government led this process with humility, with integrity, without seeking to hide anything."

He said ministers had been briefing the public regularly.

NFP MP Munzoor Shaik Imam asked about the rationale behind allowing alcohol, but banning tobacco sales.

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Ramaphosa said alcohol was discussed "quite thoroughly by various structures" and that they had decided to open sales, but with as many restrictions as possible.

He said some people went "way overboard" after alcohol was allowed and thatt alcohol was a topic the country needed to debate.

"Many people would say you cannot ban alcohol forever," Ramaphosa said, adding that the tobacco matter had been discussed extensively by "many people, through various formations".

Racial breakdown

"Now it is in the hands of the court."

EFF MP Veronica Mente wanted to know the racial breakdown of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

Ramaphosa said race-based classification had not yet been done.

ANC MP and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo asked what would have happened if the country not been placed under lockdown.

Ramaphosa answered that infections and deaths would have been substantially higher.

"It was a collective decision, and it turns out it was the correct decision," he said.

"The actions we took demonstrably flattened the curve."

Later during the session, Steenhuisen said government did not release the information, the DA still have eight PAIA applications outstanding.

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