President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Wednesday night that the country will drop to Level 3 of the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown by the end of May, has been largely criticised for being vague and without substance by opposition parties.
On Wednesday evening, Ramaphosa announced that consultation would begin for a further easing of the lockdown in most parts of the country. The municipalities with high infection rates were expected to remain at Level 4, he said.
“In the coming days, we will also be announcing certain changes to Level 4 regulations to expand permitted business activities in the retail space and e-commerce and reduce restrictions on exercise,” Ramaphosa said.
Reacting to the speech, interim DA leader John Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa delivered a speech with very little detail.
“Essentially, he doubled down on what has been a tragically flawed approach that has wreaked catastrophic, unnecessary and possibly irreparable damage to our country,” Steenhuisen said in a statement.
He reiterated the party’s stance that the lockdown should end swiftly. The DA believed that a prolonged lockdown was not supported by an adequate safety net for poor people and small businesses.
“President Ramaphosa is attempting to defend the indefensible. This lockdown has cost more lives than it has saved. Millions of jobs and lives have been destroyed,” he said.
The DA has called on government to end the curfew, ramp up direct cash transfers, urgently help hungry people and lift the ban on cigarettes and alcohol sales. They have also called for the reinstatement of the separation of powers to enable executive oversight.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa was also critical of Ramaphosa, saying that the president “said nothing”. Holomisa accused the president of delay tactics.
“He will have to move faster to ease the economic situation. He claims that South Africa has done well but where are the rewards? He must make sure that government is not suffering from selective amnesia,” Holomisa told News24.
“One moment they reference international community trends when they justify the lockdown, but when the international community is rewarding its people by easing lockdown, he drags his feet.”
IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa expressed his disapproval of the planned lockdown drop to Level 3, saying that it was premature.
Hlengwa also questioned why Ramaphosa was not specific about the areas where government had made mistakes.
At the tail end of his speech, the president conceded that some of government’s actions had been unclear, contradictory and invoked anger and opposition.
“The mixed messages arise because many [Cabinet members] are still excited to appear in the media as if this is a popularity contest,” Hlengwa said.
“He missed an opportunity to take the country into his confidence when it comes to consequence in order to curb further Cabinet mistakes and mixed messaging.”
The IFP was also expecting more detail from Ramaphosa on the reopening of schools, adding that government needed to have a more comprehensive plan.