President says government is open to different and even dissenting viewpoints around the national coronavirus response
SOUTH Africa has made progress in curbing new transmissions of Covid-19, but still has a long way to go, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.
“The weeks and months ahead will be difficult and will demand much more from our people,” Ramaphosa said in a weekly newsletter.
He said the coronavirus pandemic would continue to place an enormous strain on South Africa’s society and institutions and acknowledged that critics of his government’s extended lockdown aimed at containing its spread had exercised their constitutional rights to challenge the measures in court.
“As we navigate these turbulent waters, our Constitution is our most important guide and our most valued protection. Our robust democracy provides the strength and the resilience we need to overcome this deep crisis,” the president wrote.
Even as the country gradually opened up the economy, the impact on people’s material conditions would be severe, with the potential for conflict, discord and dissatisfaction remaining, he said.
Ramaphosa defended all the decisions taken by his government as having been made in good faith, based on scientific, economic and empirical data and meant to advance, not harm the interests of South Africans.
Some critics have included the DA and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), which said some measures such as the banning of cigarette sales and seemingly arbitrary decisions about what counted as winter clothing that the public was allowed to purchase in preparation for the upcoming season, had shaken trust in the government.
But in her own weekly newsletter on Monday, BLSA chief executive Busi Mavuso said Ramaphosa’s latest televised national address last week had conveyed “a genuine openness to learn and change course in response to the evidence”.
“The intention must be to safeguard the health battle while we ensure that all business that can operate safely is able to resume. This is the only way the economy can recover, and jobs, taxes and incomes can be restored,” Mavuso said.
In his column, Ramaphosa insisted that the government’s decisions were all informed by the need to advance the rights to life and dignity as set out in the Constitution and reiterated the pledge to welcome different and even dissenting viewpoints around the national coronavirus response.
“The exercise of the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and speech is a barometer of the good health of our democracy,” he said.
“But much more than that, these rights are essential to the success of our national and collective struggle to overcome the coronavirus.”
– African News Agency (ANA)