DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

State of disaster and lockdown must end now

By Opinion Time of article published Oct 12, 2020

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By John Steenhuisen

The DA calls on Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet to resist the urge to once again extend the state of disaster, which is otherwise due to end on Thursday, October 15. South Africa’s prolonged lockdown must end immediately and completely. Indeed, both should have ended five months ago. SA’ epidemiological models massively exaggerated the size of the Covid risk.

The World Health Organization has now echoed what the DA has been saying for months: that lockdowns are harmful and unjustifiable. The WHO has appealed to world leaders to stop locking down their countries and their economies.

The state of disaster undermines democracy, oversight, and policy certainty. Extending it will be no more than a continuation of the government’s attempt to use bad science to promote a climate of fear that gives false legitimacy to the ANC’s growing authoritarianism. It has massively enabled the theft of state resources, which is why the ANC government has been so reluctant to end it.

Of course, the real disaster is the state of our economy, which was already in an ANC-induced crisis before the pandemic hit. But it was dealt a deathblow by the ANC’s irrational, unscientific, unethical lockdown with its senseless, arbitrary regulations ineffectively targeting a single risk, a risk which is nowhere near as dangerous to our country as many other risks.

The WHO’s statement supports the DA’s position that this prolonged lockdown has been unjustifiable and that the economic devastation it caused could and should have been avoided.

The main things South Africa’s lockdown has achieved is a catastrophic increase in poverty, unemployment and inequality, with poor people and young people paying the highest price for what has largely been an ineffective policy. Three million jobs have been lost. Schoolchildren have lost around 40% of their school days this year. Hunger is widespread, a long-term consequence of which will be childhood stunting. All with terrible consequences for public mental and physical health.

Level 1 lockdown continues to harm South Africa. It continues to damage certain sectors of the economy, particularly tourism and the alcohol industry, and it continues to interrupt education, with no benefits to society. This charade must end now.

Specifically, the DA calls on government to:

* Lift all restrictions on international travel. The tourism industry is being unnecessarily damaged as a result of these.

* Lift all restrictions on the trade of alcohol.

* Lift the curfew, which is an unnecessary invasion of civil liberties including an unnecessary restriction of people’s freedom of movement.

* Allow schooling to return to normal operations.

The ANC government has brought SA to the precipice of economic ruin, to avoid a single risk which is small relative to the myriad other risks we as a nation faces. This government remains the biggest risk to the country’s well-being. Nothing which gives them more power should be supported.

* John Steenhuisen is the interim leader of the Democratic Alliance.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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