Lockdown: Public still trusts Ramaphosa, but NDZ not so much, according to latest research

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. (Photo: GCIS)
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. (Photo: GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has the highest level of trust among South Africans, while Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma the highest distrust, research by Ask Afrika has shown. 

Public awareness levels around government communications has remained very high over the past four weeks. 

South Africans trust the president and approve of his leadership; however, this trust has slightly declined over the past four weeks.

Citizens have more trust in Health Minister Zweli Mkhize than other ministers measured (Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, Police Minister Bheki Cele, and Dlamini-Zuma). 

The government gets good ratings for communicating about the virus and stemming its spread.

Government ratings for reducing poverty are below average - residents in the Western Cape feel the strongest that government can do more to alleviate poverty during this time. 

Most agree that private individuals are contributing more to vulnerable communities than business or government.

Concerns mounting

Concerns about food security have reached an all time high, with one in four people mentioning this as their biggest concern, research by Ask Afrika has shown. 

This is closely linked to fears of unemployment and the subsequent loss of income.

Due to lack of food, almost 50% of adults have reduced meal frequencies or portion sizes, and subsequently one in five lost weight due to a lack of food. Additionally, one in four adults and one in six children went to bed hungry due to a lack of food.

A large proportion of South Africans are borrowing money and dipping into savings to stay afloat, while four in 10 people have made arrangements for later payment, and 25% have cancelled non-essentials such as car insurance.

A further 21% of people have applied for UIF for financial assistance and have not received a salary although they have been working during this time.

Ask Africa has been conducting weekly research since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown on 26 March. The main aim of the research is to understand the socio-economic impact the coronavirus lockdown and the gradual reopening of the economy has on South Africans.

Over the past eight weeks, quantitative research was done using a 10-minute questionnaire administered in English.

A total of 3 657 interviews were conducted and the quota structure aligned with the proportions of the general South African population. The results for Week 8 were obtained from 19 to 25 May. 

Trust in Ramaphosa remains high, but more updates wanted

According to the survey, trust in Ramaphosa remains high and people want to receive information from him on a regular basis. 

Most people trust the president to lead the country during the lockdown and believe that the he is taking lead to manage the country. This sentiment has, however, declined over the past four weeks.

More than 60% of people want to hear from the president at least once a week.

Further to this, 78% of people would like to receive frequent communication from Mkhize. Consistently, more than 60% of people noted that government is doing a good job in supporting its citizens during the lockdown.

Two in five people feel that government is not doing enough to reduce poverty, and 49% have not seen food parcels being delivered to the most vulnerable in their communities.

Communication efforts regarding government's initiatives could be increased.

More people feel that private individuals are contributing the most to vulnerable communities as compared to government or businesses.

Awareness of Covid-19-related corruption is high, with nearly 70% of people having heard, seen or read about it. 

Fear around increased levels of domestic and gender-based violence remains high

The survey found that 65% of respondents believe that domestic and gender-based violence will increase during the lockdown, while 49% believe that crime will also increase during the lockdown.

Many people don't know what to do if they or someone they know are affected by domestic or gender-based violence.

Further to this, one in three people feel that the government is not doing enough to support victims of these crimes during the lockdown. 

Lockdown regulations leading to frustration

Although most people understand the reason for the lockdown, frustration levels are high and starting to increase with more than 70% of people experiencing frustration.

Lockdown regulations are deemed to be too strict; yet, people maintain social distancing and hygiene practices to stay safe. Adherence to lockdown regulations are high, yet many people are breaking the regulations which put South Africans at risk of increased infection.

Personal responsibility is high as most people agree that they should take responsibility for their own health and well being as opposed to relying on government. Most people understand that they should play their part in containing the virus and adhere to government's call to stay at home.

The survey also found that almost half of respondents indicated that they take supplements such as vitamins and minerals to stay healthy.

In addition, the arrival of the Cuban doctors has been welcomed by many and seen as a valuable asset. Citizens perceive nurses and doctors to be dedicated and committed to their jobs during the pandemic.

Reputation is built through charitable acts and providing clean and safe environments for customers and employees. Government departments, Shoprite and Pick n Pay mostly impressed customers during the outbreak. 

Some of the other findings include:


  • Distress is highest in the North West and Mpumalanga. The distress is not directly linked to number of Covid-19 cases per province;
  • The Western Cape shows markedly less distress than the rest of the country, possibly due to more than half of the citizens still being able to earn during lockdown;
  • The fear levels around food shortages has reached its highest levels since the start of the lockdown - it is currently the highest of all fears experienced;
  • Most people understand the reason for the lockdown; yet, many believe that the gradual reopening of the economy will not save lives, especially those residing in Mpumalanga;
  • Tellingly, 70% agree the ban on alcohol and tobacco has increased illegal trading in their communities; 
  • The trust in the police and SANDF is significantly more profound under black South Africans and those living in townships/informal settlements;
  • Obedience will dwindle if restrictions are increased, with 35% of respondents completely disagreeing that they will continue to comply with the regulations if certain provinces moved back to previous lockdown levels;
  • Citizens living on smallholdings and in townships or informal settlements are the most affected by the lockdown, especially by hunger and emotional distress, while those in suburbs and metros are least likely to stick to more restrictions (40%);
  • Domestic helpers, gardeners and informal traders/street vendors have similar levels of distress - these groups are also the most likely to comply with increased restrictions at 55%, even though their distress ratings are the highest of all employment categories.

Health and access to medical care

Of those surveyed, 82% regard health as a personal responsibility - not a government responsibility. This personal responsibility is especially profound in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

Awareness of Covid-19 symptoms remains high and similar to the start of the lockdown, with fever still being the most associated symptom with Covid-19. 

One in four people don't have the means to obtain medical support if they contract the virus. It is expected that medical aids will do very well in this time, with fewer operations taking place and more new members joining.

The majority of citizens said they would maintain social distancing and hygiene practices even after the lockdown has been lifted. In addition, most people follow the basic preventative principles such as hand washing, sanitising and wearing a mask. Many implement stringent measures as fear of contracting the virus increases.

Huge financial strain 

Financial security is low, with 36% of respondents having no means of financial assistance and 40% making arrangements for later payments. In addition, 70% of food-insecure citizens took a loan from friends, family or mashonisas, while 58% of unemployed people borrowed from friends, family or mashonisas.

In terms of employment, 43% of people are temporarily not working due to the lockdown. Businesses are struggling to support employees, and many are facing retrenchments or salary reductions.

Only 37% of respondents have enough money for the next few weeks, while 89% of respondents are economically red-zoned at this point and require immediate economic release.

That said, the approval ratings of employees towards their employers are very high at 71%, despite 75% of citizens noting that their employers were affected by the lockdown. 

Emotional well-being

After initially showing high levels of fear, citizens have for the past month plateaued on an emotion of "managing" and depression. Week 8 has shown a slight increase in emotional stress symptoms.

The youth continues to show the highest levels of fear and depression. The elderly are the most likely to experience comfort and note that they are "managing". They also have the lowest levels of depression.

Fear around the virus are high, but is more profound in the unemployed and part-time working groups.

From a provincial point of view, the North West (75%) and KwaZulu-Natal (73%) have the highest stressors around the virus. These two provinces are also showing slightly higher emotional stressors than the others.

Those 35 to 49 years old are showing the highest work stress, whereas the older generations (65+ years) are less concerned with social isolation.

Part-time workers are showing the highest levels of stress factors within the home environment (women are experiencing slightly more emotional stress factors than men).

Religion

Those who previously attended religious worship at a place of worship and plan on attending at a place of worship in the near future are the most likely to agree that allowing religious services during Level 3 is a good thing.

Religious attendees are the most likely to agree that social distancing practices are important when attending religious ceremonies, however, attendees are the most likely to agree that wearing a face mask will hinder attendees to participate in worship.

That said, 47% of people who previously attended religious worship at a place of worship will not attend at a place of worship as of 1 June.

Low food security

Food security is low in South Africa with one in five adults going to bed hungry because of a lack of food.

Black South African households are significantly more likely to go an entire day without food. This is also more likely to happen in townships or informal settlements.

One in two adults reduced their portion sizes due to a lack of food and insufficient funds to purchase more. Men are significantly more likely to go to bed hungry.

Hungry adults are twice as likely to show signs of depression as those who are not showing signs of food insecurity.

The need for food parcels remains high and is seen as the most important way in which government can assist vulnerable communities, while only 10% indicate that they have received food parcels from government.

Nearly 50% of respondents noted that vulnerable people in their community had not received food parcels.

Many stay healthy by maintaining healthy eating habits while others must reduce meal sizes to survive the lockdown.

Cooking on open fires helps people to save money on electricity, and some use fresh fruit and veggies from their own gardens to save money at the shops. 

Social well-being and violence

Two in three respondents noted concerns about the increase of domestic and gender-based violence (GVB). This concern is more profound in suburban areas.

The North West and Western Cape are showing significant concern regarding this.

Women are significantly more concerned about the increase in domestic and gender-based violence, while 28% of respondents believe the government is not doing enough for GBV victims.

Health

Healthcare workers are kept in high regard. The Cuban doctors sent to assist the country are also seen as valuable assets. Vitamins and minerals form an important line of defence against the virus - 45% of citizens have been taking supplements.

Exercise is also critical for mental and physical health. Many have well-prepared routines while others rely on household chores or don't enjoy exercising.

Citizens' healthy eating habits have nearly doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic. Healthy eating habits are here to stay since most people will not go back to their old eating habits. Only one in five respondents bought take way meals in Level 4 of the lockdown.

Consumption of frequently consumed snacks decreased during the lockdown period as compared to pre-Covid-19.

Schools and education

Two thirds of parents think that the 2020 academic year should be repeated. Seven weeks into lockdown, nearly half of all children have inadequate or no teaching access. Parents struggle with home schooling - about half have no resources or skills to help their children. 

Read the full report here:

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