DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
DA leader John Steenhuisen. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

The president must admit he needs help, says DA’s John Steenhuisen

By Tarryn-Leigh Solomons Time of article published Jun 30, 2021

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Cape Town - DA leader John Steenhuisen says as a result of the failed vaccine roll-out programme, President Cyril Ramaphosa must admit that he needs help and needs to acknowledge that he, his Cabinet and his Coronavirus Command Council are drowning and cannot manage the roll-out.

During his virtual national address on Tuesday, he said the country’s current “botched” vaccine programme has revealed the full extent of an incapable state.

Ramaphosa on Sunday announced that the country would be moved to adjusted Level 4 as the infection numbers continue to rise as a result of the more transmissible Covid-19 Delta variant.

According to Steenhuisen, the president must admit that he needs help. “He has to acknowledge that he, his Cabinet and his Coronavirus Command Council are drowning and cannot manage this roll out.”

While delivering his speech, Steenhuisen said the government should concede that many of the measures introduced in the name of fighting the spread of Covid did nothing of the sort, and only ended up compounding misery by destroying entire economic sectors.

“Our tourism and hospitality industries are now into their second year of severely compromised operations, with no help whatsoever from government. Hundreds of thousands of families have been left with no income.

“And, knowing all of this, the president has just done it again by shutting down the liquor and restaurant trade. The only reason he finds himself backed into this corner is because he didn’t do his actual job. So let us not give him a free pass on this and say he had no choice.”

He said upon reflecting on the past fifteen months since the country had been hit by the pandemic, South Africa should never have sold the one million AstraZeneca vaccines to other African countries or cancelled the remaining 500 000 on the order.

The one million AstraZeneca vaccine doses were the first vaccines in the country in January, and were to be rolled out to health workers, but the government announced that it had suspended the roll-out after a study found that the vaccine had a low efficacy against mild symptoms.

“Not only would those vaccines have helped to prevent death and serious illness among vulnerable populations, but we now know that they would have offered protection against the Delta variant.

“The DA called on the government to hold onto these shots and immediately roll them out to vulnerable population groups. And not only the DA. Many scientists, including those at the World Health Organization, were saying the same thing: don’t give away your vaccines because they will save lives.

“The government always claims to follow the science. Well, the science says we should have used them,” Steenhuisen said.

He added that Ramaphosa should take accountability and could not refer to setbacks as missteps. “When your country has 60 000 official Covid-19 deaths and excess deaths that suggest a Covid-19 death rate far worse, you don’t call them missteps. You take full ownership, you apologise and you fix it.

“Our country’s shambolic vaccine programme has now reached the point where it regularly makes the pages and the broadcasts of the international media,” Steenhuisen said.

“We should have been in the best position on the continent to roll out a vaccination programme, given our infrastructure, financial clout and health-care resources, yet we are languishing in the bottom half of the table of African countries.

“This is shameful. But it’s more than that. It’s criminal too,” he said.

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Political Bureau

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