The African National Congress (ANC) has come under criticism for instructing its branches countrywide to conduct door-to-door campaigns to raise awareness about coronavirus (COVID-19) in communities.
ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the decision during a briefing with journalists after an extended meeting of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) in Pretoria on Monday.
He said, “The ANC branch executive committee is required and expected to activate mobilisation to make people aware of coronavirus and educate our people.”
At odds with social distancing
“We will do this by embarking on door-to-door work in our communities where we will go from house to house and explain to our people what this is all about and this is going to be necessary as this virus continues to be present among us.”
However, some observers have said this decision is at odds with the government’s message of social distancing as a way of curbing the spread of the virus.
During his address to the nation on Sunday, Ramaphosa said, “We are calling for a change of behaviour among all South Africans. We must minimise physical contact with other people, and encourage the elbow greeting rather than shaking hands.”
According to John Hopkins Hospital, social distancing means “deliberately increasing the physical space between two people to avoid spreading illness.” It recommends a distance of “at least” 1.8 metres to lessen one’s chances of contracting coronavirus.
In a tweet, University of Pretoria lecturer Dr Sithembile Mbete slammed the ANC’s door-to-door plan as irresponsible.
She wrote, “This is irresponsible. Social distancing is a proven way of flattening the curve of this virus and saving lives. Why not use radio to get the message out? The majority of South Africans listen to radio. Run an awareness campaign in all 11 languages.”
News24 journalist Matshidiso Madia added, “It’s a disaster waiting to happen. ANC can’t promote social distancing and then want to have its president and leaders leading a door to door?? Those things get packed.”
Others pointed out safety concerns, citing the City of Ekurhuleni’s alert on Monday that criminal elements posing as health professionals are purporting to conduct “door-to-door coronavirus testing.”
In his briefing with journalists on Monday, Ramaphosa addressed some of these concerns by emphasising that the ANC’s door-to-door campaigns would involve a limited number of people visiting homes.
He said, “When the Top 6 officials go on door to door, we always have a number of our local branch people going along with us and maybe there are 50 people going into a house with us. We’re now going to curtail that.
“Door to door this time must mean that only one or two of our local leaders will go into a house. If they have flu or flu symptoms, [then] door-to-door work is banned [for them]. We would only want to have healthy people to do door to door.”