The government must trust people, DA federal council chairperson Helen Zille said in response to the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She was speaking, along with DA interim leader John Steenhuisen, on the party’s twice-weekly broadcast called Coronacast, streamed on its Facebook page.
Zille, the former mayor of Cape Town and premier of the Western Cape, said the two major disasters she faced during her terms of office were the drought in the Western Cape and Knysna fires.
She added it was of paramount importance that a leader knew who to trust in a disaster, and trust was built during good times.
Zille said on a national level South Africa was lucky to have infectious disease specialist Professor Salim Abdool Karim who chairs the government’s advisory committee on Covid-19.
Guts to see it through
“The Western Cape has a disaster team wat skrik vir niks [that is afraid of nothing]. When you start your plan, you have to have the guts to see it through.”
Both Zille and Steenhuisen agreed President Cyril Ramaphosa was correct in declaring a hard lockdown. They also supported the phased measures Ramaphosa announced, and took pride that it resembled their policy proposal of a smart lockdown.
Zille said the DA needed a policy response when the lockdown was announced and it immediately repurposed its policy unit “under the capable leadership of Gwen Ngwenya”, which was busy drafting policy positions for the party’s policy conference later this year.
Instead, it focused on a Covid-19 policy, which led to the smart lockdown policy which Steenhuisen announced before anyone else was talking about it, she added.
Zille said she was delighted Ramaphosa had taken some of their ideas on and she hoped it was a precursor to bipartisanship.
Steenhuisen said enjoyed the interaction with Ramaphosa and praised him for creating the platform.
“I’m very proud of the DA’s contribution,” he added.
Importance of data
Zille said if there was one thing she learnt in government, it was the importance of data, adding people must be able to come to you with bad news.
She added she would like to see a rational lockdown and the country needed to get back to economic activity soon.
“The government must trust people,” Zille said, adding most people have shown they could be trusted.
“The government must treat us as adults,” Steenhuisen agreed.
Zille said the number of infections in the Western Cape had jumped dramatically because of the amount of testing done in the province.
“One thing the Western Cape got right is testing,” she added.