The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to “come out of hiding” and address the nation on the “escalating” lockdown crisis.
In a statement on Tuesday, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa has been “missing in action” since his last address 19 days ago.
“We call on the President to address the nation regularly – at least once a week – and that these briefings should include the opportunity to answer questions from the media. We also call on him to make public all COVID-19 data, along with the [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] modelling he is using to justify the continued lockdown,” he said.
Vacuum ‘filled by petty authoritarianism’
Steenhuisen said the lockdown has cost the economy billions of rand, adding that “countless” businesses have had to shut down and thousands of South Africans have lost their jobs since the President’s last address.
He continued, “It is unthinkable that any country in this perilous situation should go for almost three weeks without a sign of its leader.
“And the vacuum left by President Ramaphosa has been filled by the petty authoritarianism of the worst of his ministers – people who seem to have very little understanding of what keeps a country afloat and how people should survive when all economic activity has been suspended.”
In recent days, the DA has been piling pressure on the government to lift the lockdown as soon as possible, arguing that level 4 lockdown, which began on 1 May, is as restrictive as level 5.
Level 3 lockdown on the cards?
The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) reportedly met on Sunday and a Cabinet meeting was scheduled for Tuesday. It’s unclear whether Ramaphosa would address the nation afterwards or not.
In his newsletter to the nation on Monday, he said the government’s aim is to “steadily reduce the alert level by keeping the rate of infection down and getting our health system ready for the inevitable increase in cases.”
He however cautioned, “Easing the lockdown restrictions must not result in careless behaviour by individuals or reckless practices by businesses keen to resume activity at the cost of human health.”
Speaking to City Press over the weekend, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize also said South Africans would have to adjust to a new way of life because the lockdown cannot go on “forever.”
“We cannot continue with the country locked down forever. We need to now get people to begin to understand the change in behaviour that allows us to get back to normal economic activities,” he said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele told journalists on Monday that the NCCC had been discussing a possible downgrade to level 3 lockdown, but was waiting for advice from experts before making a final decision.
UPDATE [Wednesday 15h00]: The Presidency has announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation at 20h30 on Wednesday, 13 May.