Time to get our lives back: Steenhuisen says SA must move to Level 1 lockdown

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John Steenhuisen.
John Steenhuisen.
Felix Dlangamandla
  • DA interim leader John Steenhuisen has urged the president to move South Africa to Level 1 of the lockdown.
  • He says poverty poses a greater risk to the country.
  • Steenhuisen says all sectors must be opened and normal school weeks must resume, but that large gatherings in confined spaces must remain prohibited.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to open all sectors of the economy.

Steenhuisen's call comes amid growing speculation that the president will announce a move to Level 1 of the lockdown this week.

South Africa has been under varying levels of the lockdown since March in a bid to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Initial projections suggested that under Level 1, the country would return to some level of normality, with health and safety protocols still in place.

Steenhuisen said the president must allow international travel and a normal school week.

"This severe and prolonged lockdown has plunged our economy, the lifeline of our society, into unprecedented crisis," Steenhuisen said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ramaphosa himself hinted at journalists that the country was ready to move to the final level of the lockdown.

The president is expected to chair virtual meetings with his coordinating council and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on Tuesday for further discussions on the possible move.

Steenhuisen said lockdown restrictions must end "immediately" with the exception of mass gatherings in confined spaces.

Individual responsibility 

"The lockdown has devastated South Africa's economy, causing immense suffering, including widespread hunger. It has increased (rather than decreased) risk for millions of households, and aggravated inequality, including educational inequality," he said.

He added that the government should be able to trust people to take "individual responsibility" and observe the necessary protocols.

READ | Lockdown Level 1: Ramaphosa to hold high level meetings, discuss possible easing of regulations

Steenhuisen added that the DA was not denying the risk of a second wave but argued that scientists seemed to think it was low and the DA believed prolonged deep depression was a far greater risk for households in the country.

"We need to get back to work, to school and to our lives, and we need to do it safely. But we need to do more than that. We also need to agree, as a society, to back the economic reforms that can get our economy growing again, and that can roll back poverty, unemployment and inequality," Steenhuisen said.

He proposed "urgently" opening the energy market, auctioning spectrum to bring down data costs and opening the labour market for small business as some interventions that can be adopted as part of the country's economic recovery plans.

"We must walk away from investment-killing policies such as NHI (national health insurance), EWC (expropriation without compensation), asset prescription and SARB (the South African Reserve Bank) nationalisation," he added.

"Poverty is a deadly pandemic in its own right, requiring decisive action from our government that has, so far, not been forthcoming," he said.

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