While the Covid-19 pandemic will leave South Africans on average poorer, President Cyril Ramaphosa is looking at the silver lining of the dark cloud.
Ramaphosa attended a virtual imbizo on Wednesday evening, interacting with the general public about matters of concern.
A tie-less Ramaphosa appeared less formal and more relaxed than he typically does in his “family meetings”, as his addresses to the nation have become known. He seemingly tried to convince South Africans that the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel is not an oncoming train, without downplaying the magnitude of the pandemic.
In his opening remarks, Ramaphosa noted the rapid rise of Covid-19 infections – confirmed infections have breached the 150 000 mark, a third of those in just the past week.
He said government’s scientists warned about it.
“The reality is we could not remain under lockdown forever,” he said.
He added that people needed to earn a living, and that the most recent unemployment figure was a “great worry for all of us”.
“Our healthcare facilities are under a great deal of pressure,” he said, also noting that a lot of people have already recovered from the dreaded infection.
He said he understands many people are concerned about the future, and might even fear it more than the virus itself.
He said South Africans will on average be poorer.
“Even as our troubles mount, we can see a path to the recovery of our economy, also the repair of our society.”
He said there were already plans to rebuild the economy through bold investment in public employment through infrastructure projects.
“We must not underestimate the magnitude of what we are facing,” Ramaphosa said.
“It is going to take time for the economy to recover. What is important, is that work has begun.”
Ramaphosa didn’t expand on the plan.
Louise, one of the members of the public who had the opportunity to question the president, asked how government is going to use the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to pivot the country to a better future for all its residents.
“Covid-19 is a dark cloud that is hanging over our country. There is a silver lining we need to look out for,” Ramaphosa said.
“The other side of a crisis is an opportunity.”
He said government was looking at the various opportunities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, without mentioning what they are.
“Yes, this moment gives us a great deal of opportunities and options.”