Scrap SAA R10bn bailout, fund vaccination programme - DA tells Tito
Durban - The DA has urged Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to scrap a R10bn bailout for the struggling SAA Airways and implored him to use the funds to budget for the country’s vaccination programme.
DA spokesperson Ashor Sarupen said the party had written to Parliament’s appropriations committee on Tuesday, imploring it to divert the funds to procure Covid vaccines instead of bailing out the struggling national carrier.
As of Monday night, there are 1 011 871 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, as well as 27 071 deaths. There are also just under 850 000 recoveries since March.
Meanwhile, on Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a level 3 lockdown on the country and instituted a 9pm to 6am curfew after rising infections have seen hospitals begin to come under strain as the new Covid variant spreads rapidly around the country.
The new restrictions will also see beaches, parks and alcohol sales banned until mid-January.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said the government needed to roll out a vaccination programme as lockdowns were a short term gain which did damage to industries.
“There is one crucial, and pivotal point to which Ramaphosa has still neglected to speak with clarity and certainty: the acquisition and provision of the readily available coronavirus vaccine.
“We understand that the resurgence in Covid-19 cases is dire for our country, but we knew at the beginning of this crisis that we would be grappling with the virus for 18 to 24 months. We now need to stock our arsenal with a finite solution to address this pandemic decisively and sustainably.
“Ramaphosa initially said that we would receive the coronavirus vaccine in the first quarter of 2021. This goalpost has now been shifted to quarter 2. This indecision and dithering only proves that government has dropped the ball completely on a vaccine that should have been rolled out weeks ago.
“Lockdowns and bans are not a sustainable solution. They may offer extremely short-term efficacy, but they do very deep and long-lasting damage to the economy and to the livelihoods of our citizens.
“Poverty is the biggest killer in our country and government has to have more in its arsenal than just shutdowns and bans. There needs to be a simultaneous plan to massively improve public healthcare and get urgent access to a vaccine to begin a comprehensive roll out,” said Steenhuisen.
Sarupen said they had urgently written to the chairperson of the appropriations committee in Parliament, to call for an urgent virtual public hearing about the bailout money.
“This matter is made particularly pressing as Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, took to Twitter to complain about financial constraints hindering the country's access to the vaccine.
“The DA estimates that R10-billion could buy as many as 23-million vaccines, based on current market and exchange rates, which would cover nearly 40% of South Africa’s estimated 58-million strong population.
“Middle income countries (of which South Africa is considered one) such as Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as many others, have begun to procure and roll out the vaccine, protecting their healthcare workers and at-risk citizens, despite the fact that these countries have similar socio-economic conditions to ourselves.
“Based on all available reporting, just over R220m has been spent on procuring a COVID-19 vaccine for South Africa, and the first vaccinations are only expected to take place in early to mid-2021.
“It is also understood that this vaccine funding has come from the Solidarity Fund and not the state itself – showing how skewed the ANC’s fiscal priorities are,” said Sarupen.