The country’s two biggest labour federations have added their voices to reported recommendations from a forum of directors-general (DGs) to move the country from lockdown level 3 to level 2.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) told Independent Media on Wednesday the call was justified as the country had to save lives while also saving jobs.
This was in reaction to a media report carried by TimesLive on Wednesday that the forum for DGs to the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), that almost all sectors of the economy be opened except crowded places. The forum reportedly said this should be done under strict enforcement of social distancing, hand sanitisation and the wearing of masks in those spaces.
Cosatu’s spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla said the country should now use lessons learnt in the past five months to contain the virus, instead of pressing on with the lockdown in its current form.
“Five months after lockdown, we need to show what we have learned about the virus and start implementing our plans that we were supposed to develop to allow us to cope with living with Covid-19. We have to experiment and adjust based on the lessons we have learned. We agree with the recommendation for the country to move to level 2. We need to save all the jobs we can, while also saving lives.
“To some extent, our fight against the virus is undermined by problems like corruption that have nothing to do with lockdown levels. We will support a conditional move to level 2 that is accompanied by more stringent enforcement measures to ensure compliance with set conditions and protocols,” Pamla said.
The general secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Zwelinzima Vavi, said in reality, the country was moved from level 4 to level 2 and the only sectors that remain locked up are tobacco, liquor and international tourism.
“We will back the lifting of the sales of liquor and tobacco. The workers are losing their jobs and the government stimulus package is almost non-existent. We have lost R5 billion worth of investment from SAB. The government won’t reverse that so it will become a permanent loss of an opportunity. Government can’t stop the flow of illicit cigarette sales either. We fear a bounce-back of the virus though. What happened in America and Spain should worry us. So there must be careful consideration instead of allowing pressure from interested parties,” Vavi said.
The interim leader of the national official opposition, the DA (Democratic Alliance), John Steenhuisen said the time for the country to completely end the hard lockdown had come. He stressed the tourism industry, schools, and borders needed to be fully opened, the curfew lifted, and the state of disaster ended.
“It is high time for (President Cyril) Ramaphosa to grow a spine, stand up to his party and start putting South Africa first. South Africa’s daily Covid-19 infection rate is declining, taking pressure off our public health system. At the same time, our recovery rate has increased significantly. While this is no reason to drop our guard, it is reason enough to fully open our economy. This must happen immediately.
“There is general agreement that a second wave is unlikely but not impossible. Either way, we cannot hide from this virus forever while our lives and livelihoods fall apart. We need to learn to live with it, since it will still be with us for many months, perhaps even years, to come,” he said.
Ramaphosa’s acting spokesperson, Tyrone Seale was yet to respond to queries on when Ramaphosa would address the nation about these growing calls.