Winde calls on Ramaphosa to fight second pandemic with ’determination and courage’
By Premier Alan Winde
Nearly five months ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed South Africans about his decision to implement a hard lockdown for 21 days.
While this was a difficult call, I believe it was the right decision. Our country needed time to prepare its healthcare systems so that every single person could get the healthcare they needed, when they needed it.
This is what we did in the Western Cape. We used the lockdown period effectively, working around the clock to make sure that we had field hospitals up-and-running, adequate resources such as PPE and oxygen supplies, while implementing targeted hotspot interventions to contain the virus in our communities.
Our response, while not always perfect, has been characterised by a determination I have yet to witness in my years in government. We showed that it was possible to build a major hospital in a month, to work differently and smarter towards a common objective.
I am extremely grateful for this hard work, and I know that our government will never be the same again because of it. We have a long way to go still in our fight against Covid-19, which is likely to be around for some time still, but I am confident that we have the right team to continue on this fight with the same rigour as we have done to date.
However, we need to also be honest that the hard interventions taken to slow the spread of Covid-19 has allowed for a second, equally serious and potentially deadly pandemic to take root in our country. This is the pandemic of unemployment, hunger and increasing levels of poverty.
It has not received the same headlines, and there are no special disaster command councils meeting regularly to address it. It is more silent, and its effects likely more long-term to notice. But it will also cost lives in the future if we don’t fight it with the same determination as we have done with Covid-19 to date.
As I argued when our government petitioned the president to move the Western Cape to level 3, we cannot view our response to this pandemic as a zero-sum game. We need to fight Covid-19, and we need to work with the private sector and our people to allow for the safe opening of the economy. The virus is not going to go away, and so the sooner we all adapt to the new normal the better.
Some two months later, I will again petition the president at the President’s Coordinating Council to allow all businesses that can open safely to do so, following clear health guidelines. This is the only way we can effectively stop the unemployment pandemic from gaining momentum and claiming lives.
This, like the decision to take South Africa into hard lockdown, will be a hard one. But I will argue to the president that the same courage he demonstrated then, will be needed now. I know that there are some who will be opposed to it, and there are many people who are very scared. Leadership requires us to make these tough calls, following the best advice possible, in the interests of our people.
And, we must be under no illusion that if we don’t do this now, this second pandemic will gain more and more momentum, being increasingly difficult to turn around. We are not a First World country, and we do not have reserves to spend ourselves out of this global crisis. We have to give the private sector the space to help us do this.
Mr President, its now time to fight the second unemployment pandemic with equal determination and courage. You will have the Western Cape government’s support.
* Alan Winde is the premier of the Western Cape.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.
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