Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has said the government would have “blood on its hands” if people lost their lives to COVID-19 as a result of the “premature” reopening of the economy.
Malema made the comments while delivering his party’s Freedom Day message in a virtual address on Monday.
He said, “We want to use this opportunity to caution the government against premature reopening of the economy, most of which is influenced by big businesses which are not making profits during this lockdown period.”
‘Govt must take full responsibility’
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last week that the government will embark on a “risk-based approach” towards a phased reopening of the economy as from 1 May.
He said the current lockdown will be relaxed to level 4, which permits certain businesses to reopen subject to strict health conditions.
However, Malema argued, “The reality is that the majority of workers who will go back to work prematurely are black people, and knowing the negligence of big businesses in South Africa, particularly mines, our people would be at risk of contracting the virus.
“Government must be cautioned now that if workers contract coronavirus and infect their families, friends and communities, government and its capitalist friends must take full responsibility for murder and attempted genocide.”
The EFF leader added, “Cyril Ramaphosa and all companies that are rushing into premature reopening must know that they would have blood on their hands if our people die as a result of their premature, reckless and senseless reopening of the economy.”
He stated that each company that reopens must be directly held accountable for the health and safety of its workers.
“Our submission is that [for] each worker that contracts the disease as a result of the premature and senseless reopening, that company should pay a fine of R5 million to the family of the deceased,” Malema said.
During a media briefing on Saturday, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma outlined the restrictions and conditions that will be in place during level 4 lockdown.
She said although certain categories of workers would be allowed to go back to work under level 4, a significant number restrictions would still remain to limit the rate of COVID-19 infections.
Dlamini-Zuma added, “When we move down to level 4 and we do not stick to the public health restrictions and conditions and the virus [infection rate] starts speeding up, the government would have no option but to move very swiftly back to level 5.”
The government will permit the sale of a wider range of items in retail stores at level 4. It will also allow manufacturing in various industries at capacities of between 20% and 100%.
However, non-essential provincial travel remains banned and South Africans will be required to wear cloth masks whenever they leave their homes. There will also be a curfew in place between 8pm and 5am daily.