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DA wants Ramaphosa to make face masks compulsory

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‘The lockdown had served its purpose of buying time to prepare for the spread of the global pandemic’

THE DA has called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to make the use of face masks mandatory as the government prepares for the phased reopening of the economy.

The official opposition was responding to the R500 billion Covid-19 stimulus package announced by Ramaphosa on Tuesday night, aimed at mitigating the impact of the current national lockdown which has resulted in severe economic damage for South Africans and businesses.

The DA said the lockdown had served its purpose of buying time to prepare for the spread of the global pandemic.

DA interim leader John Steenhuien said while Ramaphosa was leading the phased re-opening of the country’s economy, he had to make the wearing of face masks by South Africans mandatory to help ensure that the spread of the virus was minimised even in the absence of the lockdown which saw people being forced to stay at home.

“Masks and the wearing of cloth masks in public is a very cheap intervention that can yield significant results particularly if we are going to be practising social distancing and safe practices when we start opening up the economy,” he said.

The party has called for strict accountability measures to be put in place to safeguard the socio-economic relief funds from landing in wrong hands or being stolen.

The stimulus package is set to be divided for increased coronavirus response, relief of hunger and social distress, support for companies and workers.

“We already know that there are severe concerns and constraints on capacity at a local government level as well as accountability. Municipal councils and the parliamentary portfolio committees to which municipalities account need to make sure that there are mechanisms put in place to ensure that every cent of this R500bn makes its way to South Africans who genuinely need the assistance,” Steenhusen said.

DA spokesperson on finance Geordin Hill-Lewis said while the party fully welcomed Ramaphosa’s stimulus package as a temporary intervention, real economic reforms were needed by the country to address its socio-economic challenges.

“What is going to be increasingly essential in the future is that once all the spending is over, we are going to have our debt and spending under control and for that reason, a fiscal rule is going to be critical. We also have to end the bailout to state owned companies like SA Airways,” Hill-Lewis said.

DA spokesperson on public enterprises Ghaleb Cachalia has called for the “full disclosure” on the ongoing consultations between unions and the inter-ministerial committee on SAA which met to discuss the business rescue process and impending mass retrenchments at the embattled airline, whose business rescue practitioners are requesting a lifeline of R10bn from government.

The party has been opposed to attempts to save the airline from collapse and instead called its liquidation.

“The fact of the matter is that SAA is bankrupt and no ‘creative’ solution to resurrect another state-owned airline from the ashes of this state-owned folly is likely to succeed. The Business Rescue Practitioners must apply to court in terms of section 141(2)(a)(ii) of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 for the liquidation of SAA, within the time frames contained in the Companies Act,” Cachalia said.