30 April 2020
President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his deep condolences at the passing of Rivonia Trialist and Esteemed Member of the Order of Luthuli Denis Theodore Goldberg.
Mr Goldberg, who lived in Hout Bay, Cape Town, passed away yesterday, Wednesday 29 April 2020, at the age of 87.
Mr Goldberg received a National Order for his commitment to the struggle against apartheid and service to the people of South Africa.
Upon receiving news of Mr Goldberg’s passing, the National Coronavirus Command Council observed a moment’s silence in honour of this special patriot.
Born in Cape Town in 1933, Denis Goldberg grew up in an intellectual family and became acutely aware of national as well as international politics at an early age.
In the early 1950s, Goldberg joined the Congress of Democrats and the Communist Party underground.
His keen sense of justice prompted him early on in life to fight injustices of this country.
In 1963, Goldberg was arrested at the Rivonia Headquarters of uMkhonto weSizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress. He was sentenced in 1964 at the end of the Rivonia Trial to four terms of life imprisonment. He was the only white member of MK to be arrested and sentenced in the Rivonia Trial.
In 1985, after 22 years of imprisonment, he was set free and reunited with his family in London where he continued to work for the ANC.
President Ramaphosa said: “My thoughts are with Denis Goldberg’s family and his comrades around the country and around the world.
“This is a sad moment for our nation and a moment for all of us to appreciate Denis Goldberg’s brave dedication to our Struggle and his lifelong activism in the interest of – and in the physical presence of - poor and vulnerable communities around our country.
“His first experience of prison was alongside his mother who had been detained for four months but such experiences failed to intimidate him; instead, it fuelled his determination that the liberation movement should use all strategies at its disposal, including armed resistance, to end apartheid.
“His commitment to ethical leadership was unflinching and even during his advanced age, he formed part of the movement of veterans of the struggle calling for reassertion of moral center of society. He dedicated his life to achieving the better life we enjoy today and his revolutionary contribution reinforced the non-racial character of our Struggle and of our democratic dispensation.
“We will hold him in our thoughts and prayers as we say farewell at a time when we are not allowed to gather in numbers to say our goodbyes.
“May his soul rest in peace.”
27 April 2020
Fellow South Africans,
Sanibonani. Dumelang. Inhlekani. Molweni. Lotjhani. Ndi masiari. Goeie dag. Good afternoon.
On this day twenty-six years ago, a new nation was born in Africa.
On the 27th of April 1994, the men, women and children of South Africa emerged from the dark vale of oppression to stand in the light of freedom.
As millions cast their votes for the first time, they boldly declared to the world that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.
The price of our freedom was paid by generations of patriots.
We pay tribute to the great leaders who resisted colonial domination and who fought for our liberation, both those who have left us and those who are still living.
We remember Chief Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Oliver Reginald Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Albertina Sisulu, Stephen Bantu Biko, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, Ruth Segomotsi Mompati and Mam Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
We remember John Langalibalele Dube, Dr AB Xuma, Sefako Mapogo Makgatho, ZR Mahabane, Josiah Gumede, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, King Cetswayo, King Hintsha, Makhanda, Sekhukhune, Makhado, Bambatha and the many brave leaders of the Khoi and San rebellions.
They watered the tree of liberty so we could enjoy its fruit and stand under its shade today.
We honour their memory and the contribution of the many ordinary compatriots whose names are unknown but whose sacrifices were just as great.
Our Constitution, and the Freedom Charter from which it draws its inspiration, both begin with the words: ‘We, the People’.
They are an ever-present reminder that everything we have achieved as a young democracy and everything we hope to achieve is founded on the will of the people.
Our Constitution is the defender of all who live in our great land, be they black or white, rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, citizen or resident.
Over the past 26 years we have made great progress in building a common future in which all South Africans have a part.
We have been building homes, schools, hospitals, clinics and universities.
We have been providing water, sanitation and electricity to many South Africans who never had access to such services.
We have expanded access to health care and education.
We have been hard at work to rebuild our economy and strengthen our institutions.
We have initiated work, internship and study opportunities for young people, assisting them to secure jobs or to be self-employed.
We have accelerated programmes to give our people access to land, and returned land to those who were forcibly removed.
We are supporting vulnerable families, parents, the elderly, persons with disabilities and our veterans with social grants.
Our young democracy has much to be proud of.
But the devastating legacy of our past runs so deep that at times we ourselves have been found wanting in addressing the suffering it has subjected our people to.
Poverty and inequality continues to stalk our land.
A child born to parents of means has a comfortable home, is fed and sheltered, receives a good education and has good prospects for a prosperous life.
For a poor child, every day of life can be a struggle for shelter, for food and for opportunity.
For such a child, their chances of finishing school, of studying further, of gaining useful skills and of finding a job are much smaller.
Even now, after all the progress we have made, the circumstances of one’s birth largely determines where and how we live, where we study, where we work and where we are cared for when we are sick.
It is the greatest form of injustice. It is a stain on our national conscience.
The triumph of 1994 was about much more than being able to vote.
It was about setting right the wrongs of the past, about redress, restitution and restoration.
It was about levelling the field for the black child and the white child, and making sure they each have an equal chance in life.
The promise we made on the 27th of April 1994 can no longer be deferred.
We must make real the right of all our people to health care, food, shelter, water, social security and land.
In this final decade of the National Development Plan, we must change the pace of social and economic transformation.
As a country, we are more than capable of building a more equal society where these rights are realised.
For as long as this is delayed, freedom for some is freedom for none.
This Freedom Day, we find ourselves engaged in a struggle that has thrown into sharp focus the poverty and inequality that still defines our society.
The coronavirus pandemic forces us to confront this reality.
Though we are certainly all braving the same tide, we have not been impacted in the same way by this pandemic.
Some people have been able to endure the coronavirus lockdown in a comfortable home with a fully stocked fridge, with private medical care and online learning for their children.
For millions of others, this has been a month of misery, of breadwinners not working, of families struggling to survive and of children going to bed and waking up hungry.
The social relief measures announced last week that are now being implemented are therefore as much about narrowing the gulf of inequality as they are about supporting vulnerable citizens through this trying time.
With every day that passes, this experience is teaching us much about ourselves, about our society and about our country.
We are learning about the limits of our endurance, about our relations with others and about our very nationhood.
The true lessons of this experience will not just be about the necessity of social distancing, proper hand washing and infection control.
They will also be about whether we have the ability to turn this crisis into an opportunity to invest in a new society, a new consciousness and a new economy.
In this new society, the privileged cannot afford to close their eyes to the plight of the poor and sleep peacefully at night.
This is the time when we should actively work to build a fair and just country
In the South Africa that we all want, no man, woman or child will go hungry, because they will have the means to earn an income, and our social assistance programmes will be matched by efforts to enable communities to grow their own food.
In this new society, the provision of services to our people is the foremost priority of government.
The public servant understands that they are just that: a servant of the people.
Public representatives put the interests of the people ahead of their own.
Before this pandemic was visited on our country, we were deepening our efforts to address poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and a weak economy.
This pandemic could set these efforts back by many years.
It will take a great deal of effort and resources for our society and our economy to recover.
The challenges we faced before this health emergency remain.
Even as we turn the tide on the coronavirus pandemic, we will still have to confront a contracting economy, unemployment, crime and corruption, a weakened state and other pressing concerns.
We will have to find new, exceptional and innovative ways to overcome them.
This is not something government can do alone.
The collaborative spirit with which government, business, labour and civil society formations have worked to drive the national effort to combat the coronavirus is yet another affirmation of just how far we have come.
Robust engagement, strong institutions, social compacting and consensus-building are all the fruits of the national democratic project that began in 1994.
The business community has shown itself ready and willing to support the workforce and to rally its resources to combat this disease.
The labour movement has worked with its partners in government and business not only to protect its members from the worst effects of this pandemic, but to champion the interests of the poor and unemployed.
Across society, NGOs, non-profit organisations, community bodies, religious communities and individuals are working together to defend our people against this virus and its damaging economic and social effects.
In doing so, they have demonstrated the solidarity and compassion that is at the centre of the concept of ubuntu.
As President Nelson Mandela said: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Respect for the rights of others is the beating heart of freedom.
Violating the coronavirus response provisions and exposing others to a potentially fatal illness is the worst form of disrespect for others.
This pandemic has changed the face of humankind, not just our country.
It has reminded us of our own mortality, but also of how interconnected we are.
If we did not realise it before, we all know it now – that our interdependence is key to our very survival as a people.
This Freedom Day let us stand united against this disease.
Let us also stand united against poverty, inequality and hunger.
We can only overcome this crisis and rebuild our shattered economy if we work together.
Let the good that has come from this experience – of collective action and unity of purpose – continue.
Let the generosity of spirit endure.
We owe it to the memories of those who came before us to live the values they cherished, of empathy, compassion and solidarity.
As we are reminded this Freedom Day, we have known far worse and we have prevailed.
Let us keep our arms locked together in a column of defence against this pandemic, a united people.
Let us use this crisis to reaffirm our resolve to fundamentally change our society.
Let us emerge from the coronavirus pandemic a better country, a more equal country.
This year, we are celebrating Freedom Day apart, each of us confined to our homes.
Next year – through your determination, through your courage and through your actions – we will once again celebrate Freedom Day together.
I wish you all a happy and, above all, a safe and peaceful Freedom Day.
I thank you.
STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON FURTHER ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL MEASURES IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 EPIDEMIC
21 April 2020
My Fellow South Africans,
It is 25 days since South Africa began a nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
It has demanded of you great fortitude and endurance.
It has caused you much suffering and required much sacrifice.
Once again, I salute you and I thank you.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted your lives and damaged our economy.
Its severity will continue to take a heavy toll in the weeks and months to come.
The pandemic has resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals alike, deepening poverty and increasing hunger.
The urgent and dramatic measures we have taken to delay the spread of the virus have been absolutely necessary.
They have given us the space to better respond to the inevitable rise in infections and to thereby save tens of thousands of lives.
While the nation-wide lockdown is having a devastating effect on our economy, it is nothing compared to the catastrophic human, social and economic cost if the coronavirus could spread among our people unchecked.
Medical scientists and our doctors inform us that we are still in the early stages of this pandemic.
Without proven therapeutic medicines or a vaccine, we can expect this to continue as a problem for the foreseeable future.
Our foremost priority now is to intensify the health interventions needed to contain and delay the spread of the disease and to save lives.
To date, the coronavirus has taken the lives of at least 58 people in our country.
This is a loss that we all mourn, for we know the pain and the anguish of their loved ones.
From the more than 126,000 tests conducted, 3,465 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been identified.
More than 2 million people have been screened in communities across the country and, of these, over 15,000 have been referred for testing.
Alongside this unprecedented public health effort are the measures we are taking to protect livelihoods, to stave off hunger and destitution and to set our economy on a path of recovery.
This evening, I wish to address you on our economic and social response to this global health emergency.
The pandemic requires an economic response that is equal to the scale of the disruption it is causing.
Our economic response can be divided into three phases.
The first phase began in mid-March when we declared the coronavirus pandemic as a national disaster.
This included a broad range of measures to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on businesses, on communities and on individuals.
The measures included tax relief, the release of disaster relief funds, emergency procurement, wage support through the UIF and funding to small businesses.
We are now embarking on the second phase of our economic response to stabilise the economy, address the extreme decline in supply and demand and protect jobs.
As part of this phase, we are announcing this evening a massive social relief and economic support package of R500 billion, which amounts to around 10% of GDP.
The third phase is the economic strategy we will implement to drive the recovery of our economy as the country emerges from this pandemic.
Central to the economic recovery strategy will be the measures we will embark upon to stimulate demand and supply through interventions such as a substantial infrastructure build programme, the speedy implementation of economic reforms, the transformation of our economy and embarking on all other steps that will ignite inclusive economic growth.
We will outline this in coming days.
Over the past few days, we have been in consultations with various stakeholders.
We have met with business, labour and the community constituency in NEDLAC.
We have met with Premiers, MECs and Metro Mayors and with the members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.
Following these meetings, Cabinet considered various proposals and finalised the social relief and economic support package that stands at the centre of the second phase of our economic response.
Firstly, an extraordinary health budget to respond to coronavirus,
Secondly, the relief of hunger and social distress,
Thirdly, support for companies and workers,
Fourthly, the phased re-opening of the economy.
The impact of the coronavirus requires an extraordinary coronavirus budget – of around R500 billion – to direct resources towards fighting the pandemic.
This will include the reprioritisation of around R130 billion within the current budget.
The rest of the funds will be raised from both local sources, such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and from global partners and international finance institutions.
To date, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, BRICS New Development Bank and the African Development Bank have been approached and are working with the National Treasury on various funding transactions.
Some of these institutions have created financing packages that are aimed at assisting countries that are having to address the coronavirus crisis like us.
This funding will be used, in the first instance, to fund the health response to coronavirus.
An amount of R20 billion will be directed to addressing our efforts to address the pandemic.
If we are to successfully manage the anticipated surge in cases and ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it, we must provide for additional expenditure on personal protective equipment for health workers, community screening, an increase in testing capacity, additional beds in field hospitals, ventilators, medicine and staffing.
The nation-wide lockdown has had a negative impact on the revenue of municipalities at a time when the demands on them are increasing.
Additional funding of R20 billion will therefore be made available to municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities, and providing food and shelter for the homeless.
Details will be announced in the adjustment budget tabled by the Minister of Finance.
Another significant area that requires massive additional expenditure is the relief of hunger and social distress in our communities across the country.
While we have put in place measures to protect the wages of workers in the formal economy and have extended support to small, medium and micro-sized businesses, millions of South Africans in the informal economy and those without employment are struggling to survive.
Poverty and food insecurity have deepened dramatically in the course of just a few weeks.
To reach the most vulnerable families in the country, we have decided on a temporary 6-month Coronavirus grant.
We will direct R50 billion towards relieving the plight of those who are most desperately affected by the coronavirus.
This means that child support grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R300 in May and from June to October they will receive an additional R500 each month.
All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 per month for the next six months.
In addition, a special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month for the next 6 months will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment.
The Department of Social Development will issue the requirements needed to access and apply for this funding.
We have recognised that the food distribution capacity of government is not adequate to meet the huge need that has arisen since the start of the epidemic.
The South African Social Security Agency – SASSA – will within days implement a technology-based solution to roll out food assistance at scale through vouchers and cash transfers to ensure that help reaches those who need it faster and more efficiently.
In addition, to fill the immediate need, the Department of Social Development has partnered with the Solidarity Fund, NGOs and community-based organisations to distribute 250,000 food parcels across the country over the next two weeks.
We are deeply disturbed by reports of unscrupulous people abusing the distribution of food and other assistance for corrupt ends.
We will not hesitate to ensure that those involved in such activities face the full might of the law.
While there are several interventions that already exist within government to deal with the extremely high unemployment such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the community works programme, these are not enough.
The coronavirus crisis will lead to many people losing their jobs.
An additional R100 billion will be set aside for protection of jobs and to create jobs.
Since the declaration of a state of national disaster over a month ago, government has put in place a range of measures to support workers’ wages and assist companies in distress.
By the end of today, the UIF’s special COVID-19 benefit has paid out R1.6-billion, assisting over 37,000 companies and 600,00 workers.
R40 billion has been set aside for income support payments for workers whose employers are not able to pay their wages.
We continue to provide assistance – in the form of loans, grants and debt restructuring – to SMMEs, spaza shop owners and other informal businesses.
The value of this assistance to date is over R100 million.
An additional amount of R2 billion will be made available to assist SMEs and spaza shop owners and other small businesses.
The IDC facility to support companies to procure or manufacture personal protective equipment has been utilised in the past few weeks, with finance of R162 million approved to date.
Other forms of support have been extended to artists, athletes and technical personnel, as well as to waste pickers and public works participants in the environment sector.
While these measures are providing obvious relief to many companies and workers, it is clear that there is a far greater need across the entire economy.
We will therefore be introducing a R200 billion loan guarantee scheme in partnership with the major banks, the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank.
This will assist enterprises with operational costs, such as salaries, rent and the payment of suppliers.
In the initial phase, companies with a turnover of less than R300 million a year will be eligible.
It is expected that the scheme will support over 700,000 firms and more than 3 million employees through this difficult period.
A number of the banks are ready to roll out the product before the end of the month.
Government is also working on additional support measures for vulnerable and affected sectors like the taxi industry.
In addition to existing tax relief measures, we will also be introducing a 4-month holiday for companies’ skills development levy contributions, fast-tracking VAT refunds and a 3-month delay for filing and first payment of carbon tax.
To assist a greater number of businesses, the previous turnover threshold for tax deferrals is being increased to R100 million a year, and the proportion of PAYE payment that can be deferred will be increased to 35 percent.
Businesses with a turnover of more than R100 million a year can apply directly to SARS on a case-by-case basis for deferrals of their tax payments.
No penalties for late payments will be applicable if they can show they have been materially negatively impacted in this period.
Taxpayers who donate to the Solidarity Fund will be able to claim up to an additional 10 percent as a deduction from their taxable income.
In total these tax measures should provide at least R70 billion in cash flow relief or direct payments to businesses and individuals.
The Minister of Finance will provide further details on the above and other tax-related announcements.
In the implementation of all these measures, we are determined to ensure that women, youth and persons with disability received particular attention and support.
The South African Reserve Bank has also made an important contribution to support the real economy.
In line with its Constitutional mandate, it has cut the repo rate by 200 basis point, in effect unlocking at least R80 billion in the real economy, and taking other steps to provide additional liquidity to the financial system.
Several commercial banks and insurance companies have also assisted the economic relief effort by, among other things, delaying or reducing instalment payments, providing debt relief, and waiving bank fees for grant beneficiaries.
The fourth area on which Cabinet has resolved is the phased re-opening of the economy.
We will follow a risk-adjusted approach to the return of economic activity, balancing the continued need to limit the spread of the coronavirus with the need to get people back to work.
As I have said previously, if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease.
We will therefore follow a phased approach, guided by the best available scientific evidence, to gradually lift the restrictions on economic activity.
As we do so, we remain firm in our resolve to contain the transmission of the virus.
We will therefore need to act with agility and flexibility in the weeks and months ahead, and respond to the situation as it develops.
On Thursday, I will address the nation on the measures that will be taken beyond the nation-wide lockdown to re-open the economy.
This crisis will not last forever, and the day will come when these measures are no longer needed.
Until then, however, we must ensure that all of our people receive adequate support.
The scale of this emergency relief programme is historic.
It demonstrates that we will not spare any effort, or any expense, in our determination to support our people and protect them from harm.
We will – and we must – do whatever it takes to recover from this human, social and economic crisis.
Our country and the world we live in will never be the same.
We are resolved not merely to return our economy to where it was before the coronavirus, but to forge a new economy in a new global reality.
Our economic strategy going forward will require a new social compact among all role players – business, labour, community and government – to restructure the economy and achieve inclusive growth.
Building on the cooperation that is being forged among all social partners during this crisis, we will accelerate the structural reforms required to reduce the cost of doing business, to promote localisation and industrialisation, to overhaul state owned enterprises and to strengthen the informal sector.
We will forge a compact for radical economic transformation that ensures that advances the economic position of women, youth and persons with disabilities, and that makes our cities, towns, villages and rural areas vibrant centres of economic activity.
Our new economy must be founded on fairness, empowerment, justice and equality.
It must use every resource, every capability and every innovation we have in the service of the people of this country.
Our new economy must open new horizons and offer new opportunities.
Over the past month, South Africans have opened their hearts each other.
Even at this moment when such great sacrifice is demanded of us, we look to a better future with optimism.
Even as we find ourselves at a moment of great peril, even as great sacrifices are demanded, even as we dare not allow our vigilance to waver, we look ahead to a better future.
I have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans, who have proven time and time again – throughout our history – that they can rise to the challenge.
We shall recover.
We shall overcome.
We shall prosper.
May God bless South Africa and protect her people.
I thank you.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Source : The Presidency
UNION BUILDINGS, TSHWANE
23 APRIL 2020
My Fellow South Africans,
It has been exactly seven weeks since the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in our country.
Since then, all our lives have changed in fundamental ways.
As a nation we have been forced to take aggressive action against an invisible enemy that threatened our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
We have been forced to adapt to a new way of living, in a short space of time.
As we enter the fifth week of an unprecedented nation-wide lockdown – and as we look to the future – we should remember why we are here.
The novel coronavirus, which was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, has spread rapidly across the world.
To date, over 2.6 million confirmed cases have been reported worldwide.
The actual number of people infected is likely to be far higher.
The coronavirus causes the disease known as COVID-19, a respiratory illness for which humans currently have no immunity and for which there is no known cure.
The coronavirus is passed from person to person in small droplets from the nose and mouth that can be transmitted by direct contact, on surfaces we touch or when an infected person coughs or sneezes when they are close to another person.
Most infected people exhibit only mild symptoms; some do not show any symptoms at all.
But there are people who develop severe symptoms and require hospitalisation.
These are usually older people and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.
For some of these people, COVID-19 is fatal.
Across the world, more than 185,000 people have succumbed to the disease.
Here in South Africa, at least 75 people have lost their lives.
Because the coronavirus can spread so rapidly through a population, it can overwhelm even the best-resourced health system within a matter of weeks.
This is what has occurred in many countries across the world, and it is precisely what we, as South Africa, have gone to great lengths to prevent.
Very few health systems across the world – if any – are prepared for a sudden and exponential increase in people requiring treatment for a severe respiratory illness.
As a result, if the virus spreads too quickly, there are not enough hospital beds, intensive care units, ventilators, personal protection equipment or medicine for everyone who needs them.
To make matters worse, people who are suffering from other conditions or need emergency procedures are unable to get the care they need.
And in such circumstances, many lives that could have been saved, are lost.
I am reiterating these basic facts – which by now are probably familiar to many of you – because they explain the actions we have taken to date and they inform the measures I am announcing this evening.
From the moment we declared the coronavirus pandemic to be a national disaster on Sunday 15 March, our objective was to delay the spread of the virus.
We have sought to avoid a massive surge in infections and an uncontrollable increase in the number of people needing medical care.
Our approach has been based on the principles of social distancing, restriction of movement and stringent basic hygiene practices.
By delaying the spread of the virus, we have had time to prepare our health facilities and mobilise some of the essential medical supplies needed to meet the inevitable increase in infections.
And it is in so doing, that we hope to save tens of thousands of lives.
There is clear evidence that the lockdown has been working.
Together with the other measures we have taken – such as closing our borders – and the changes in behaviour that each of us has made, the lockdown has slowed the progression of the pandemic in the country.
The World Health Organization has commended South Africa for acting swiftly and for following scientific advice to delay the spread of the virus.
Yet, while a nation-wide lockdown is probably the most effective means to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it cannot be sustained indefinitely.
Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living. Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.
We have accordingly decided that beyond Thursday 30 April, we should begin a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity.
We will implement a risk adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions.
We have decided on this approach because there is still much that is unknown about the rate and manner of the spread of the virus within our population.
The action we take now must therefore be measured and incremental.
This approach is guided by the advice from scientists who have advised that an abrupt and uncontrolled lifting of restrictions could cause a massive resurgence in infections.
We cannot take action today that we will deeply regret tomorrow.
We must avoid a rushed re-opening that could risk a spread, which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown, as has happened in other countries.
We have to balance the need to resume economic activity with the imperative to contain the virus and save lives.
To achieve this, we have developed an approach that determines the measures we should have in place based on the direction of the pandemic in our country.
As part of this approach, there will be five coronavirus levels:
Level 5 means that drastic measures are required to contain the spread of the virus to save lives.
Level 4 means that some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.
Level 3 involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities, to address a high risk of transmission.
Level 2 involves the further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.
Level 1 means that most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times.
To ensure that our response to the pandemic can be as precise and targeted as possible, there will be a national level and separate levels for each province, district and metro in the country.
We are currently at Level 5, which requires a full national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
This is the highest level of lockdown and was imposed when drastic action was necessary to curb transmission.
The National Coronavirus Command Council will determine the alert level based on an assessment of the infection rate and the capacity of our health system to provide care to those who need it.
We have undertaken a detailed exercise to classify the different parts of the economy according to the risk of transmission in that sector, the expected impact of the lockdown, the economic contribution of the sector and the effect on livelihoods.
The relevant Ministers will provide a detailed briefing on the classification of industries and how each is affected at each level.
We will give all industry bodies an opportunity to consider these details and, should they wish, to make submissions before new regulations are gazetted.
The National Coronavirus Command Council met earlier today and determined that the national coronavirus alert level will be lowered from level 5 to level 4 with effect from Friday the 1st of May.
This means that some activity will be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions to limit community transmission and outbreaks
Some businesses will be allowed to resume operations under specific conditions.
Every business will have to adhere to detailed health and safety protocols to protect their employees, and workplace plans will be put in place to enable disease surveillance and prevent the spread of infection.
All businesses that are permitted to resume operations will be required to do so in a phased manner, first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third.
In some cases, a sector will not be able to return to full production during Level 4 while the risk of infection remains high.
These will be spelt out next week following a final round of consultations.
Businesses will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible.
All staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so.
The relevant Ministers will provide details on the process for the phased re-opening of schools and other educational institutions.
As we gradually ease the restrictions, it is necessary that many of the measures to contain the spread of the virus remain in place.
When the country moves to level 4 on 1 May:
Our borders will remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.
No travel will be allowed between provinces, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances such as funerals.
Public transport will continue to operate, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements, including that all passengers must wear a face mask.
The public is encouraged to stay at home, other than for essential personal movement, doing essential work and work in sectors that are under controlled opening. People can exercise under strict public health conditions.
All gatherings, apart from funerals and for work, will remain prohibited.
Those who are elderly, and those with underlying conditions, must remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate themselves.
The sale of cigarettes will be permitted.
The range of goods that may be sold will be extended to incorporate certain additional categories. These will be detailed by the relevant Ministers.
It is important to note that several restrictions will remain in place regardless of the level of alert for as long as the risk of transmission is present:
Bars and shebeens will remain closed.
Conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres, and concerts will remain closed.
Concerts, sporting events, and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue.
The coronavirus is spread by contact between people.
If people do not travel, the virus does not travel.
We know, for example, that just one funeral in Port St Johns and one religious gathering in Mangaung contributed to a spate of infections in their respective provinces.
From the evidence we have, we know that 75 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases are found in just six metro municipalities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, Buffalo City, EThekwini and Mangaung.
It is therefore essential that we do everything in our means to restrict the movement of people and – although it runs counter to our very nature – to reduce the contact that each of us has with each other.
Ultimately, it is our own actions, as individuals, that will determine how quickly the virus spreads.
If we all adhere to instructions and follow public health guidelines, we will keep the virus under control and will not need to reinstate the most drastic restrictions.
We can prevent the spread of coronavirus by doing a few simple things.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol based sanitiser.
Keep a distance of more than one metre between yourself and the next person, especially those who are coughing and sneezing.
Try not to touch your mouth, nose and eyes because your hands may have touched the coronavirus on surfaces.
When you cough or sneeze cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue, and dispose of the tissue right away.
As we begin the easing of lockdown restrictions from the beginning of May, we are calling on all South Africans to wear a face mask whenever you leave home.
Our clothing and textile industry – including many small businesses – are gearing up to produce these masks on a mass scale.
The extraordinary measures that we have put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic have been matched by the extraordinary contributions of many South Africans.
We pay tribute to them, the nurses, the doctors, the scientists and the community screening field workers who are leading our public health response.
We are committed to ensuring that they have all the resources they need – including adequate personal protection equipment and other recognition – to undertake the work that is being asked of them.
As we slowly ease the lockdown restrictions, we are substantially and rapidly increasing our public health response.
We have already seen a huge increase in community screening and testing.
Guided by advice from the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, we have joined other African countries in placing mass screening and testing at the centre of the next phase of our response.
Earlier in the week, I announced an additional allocation of R20 billion to our health response to ensure that we have the beds, medicine, equipment and personnel required when the country experiences the peak of infections.
This evening, I also want to pay tribute to those who are providing essential services and goods – the truck, taxi, bus and train drivers; the workers on farms, in stores, at power stations, at water plants, at petrol stations, in banks and in call centres; the law enforcement officials and security personnel.
It is thanks to your efforts that we have been able to make such valuable progress in combating this pandemic.
As part of expanding this effort, I have employed over 70,000 defence force personnel to assist with various parts of our coronavirus response.
Until now, those defence force members that have been deployed have supported the South African Police Service in their responsibilities.
They will continue to do so, but they will also be providing assistance in other essential areas, such as the provision of water supply, infrastructure maintenance and health services.
This is a crucial moment in our struggle against the coronavirus.
It is a time for caution.
It is a time to act responsibly.
It is a time for patience.
There is no person who doesn’t want to return to work.
There is no company that does not want to re-open.
There is no student who does not want to return to their studies.
Yet, we are all called upon, at some time in our lives, to make great sacrifices for our own future and for the future of others.
There are times when we must endure hardship and difficulty, so that we can enjoy freedom and prosperity into the future.
During the past five weeks, we have demonstrated to the entire world what a nation can achieve with courage, determination and solidarity.
We must not give up now.
I am asking you to stay strong.
I am asking you to remain united.
Stay home, stay safe.
Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.
May God bless South Africa and protect her people.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
Monday, 20 April 2020
Dear Fellow South African,
Many countries around the world have imposed coronavirus lockdowns with a view to saving the lives of their citizens. We have done the same in our country, but our lockdown has revealed a very sad fault line in our society that reveals how grinding poverty, inequality and unemployment is tearing the fabric of our communities apart.
There can be no greater anguish than that of a parent whose children cry out to them for food, but they have none to give.
There can be no greater injustice than a society where some live in comfort and plenty, while others struggle at the margins to survive with little or nothing at all.
Yes, these are the residual effects of a fractured and unequal past. But they are also a symptom of a fundamental failing in our post-apartheid society. The nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus has gravely exacerbated a long-standing problem.
Over the past three weeks, we have been confronted with distressing images of desperate people clamouring for food parcels at distribution centres and of community protests against food shortages.
We have also had to contend with allegations both disturbing and disgusting. A number of provinces have received reports that callous individuals, some of them allegedly government officials, are hoarding or selling food parcels earmarked for the needy and destitute, or diverting them to their friends and families.
If there is found to be substance to these allegations we will deal with the individuals concerned harshly.
With the declaration of a national state of disaster and the imposition of a nation-wide lockdown we entered uncharted waters. South Africa has never had to deal with a public health emergency of this magnitude.
We had to act quickly to save lives. And we must acknowledge that in the days and weeks that have followed, the provision of support to our country’s most vulnerable citizens has been slower than required, and that lapses have occurred.
However, the payment of social grants has proceeded relatively smoothly, and after a number of technical challenges, the food distribution system is being streamlined.
Imposing a nationwide lockdown at very short notice presented several challenges. We have had to weigh up the proportionality of the national response and the extent of restrictions we would need to impose.
We ultimately chose to err on the side of caution. And as the presentation by the Ministry of Health last week indicated, enforcing a lockdown at the time we did has slowed down the rate of infection and, more importantly, bought us time to prepare for a probable surge in infections in the coming weeks and months.
We had to consider the impact on an already floundering economy in both the long and short term, and the impact of this substantial disruption on the livelihoods of millions of people.
We had to consider what weeks of confinement to the home would mean for the employed not paid regular salaries, for the unemployed and those seeking work, for those in casual or seasonal employment, for those in the informal sector, for the indigent and for the vulnerable.
Cabinet will finalise a set of measures to respond to the impact of the lockdown on the livelihoods of our people. This has been preceded by a range of engagements with a number of stakeholders including business, labour, religious organisations, civil society and the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.
The social partners have put forward a number of proposals on interventions that could address the immediate vulnerability of the poorest of the poor, most of whom rely on social assistance to survive.
We will scale up welfare provision during this period to help households living below the poverty line.
Even when the nation-wide lockdown is lifted, its effects will continue to be felt for some time to come.
Those fortunate to have a steady income will be able to return to their jobs; but for millions of others this will be a lost month where they would otherwise have found temporary work, done business in the informal sector or saved money earned to meet their family responsibilities.
Food support is a short-term emergency measure. It will need to be matched by sustainable solutions that help our most vulnerable citizens weather the difficult times that are still to come.
I wish to thank the many NGOs, religious groups and ordinary citizens who are donating money and volunteering to help feed the hungry and destitute.
Alleviating hunger is not an act of charity. It is an imperative for any society that is founded on respect for human rights.
We are at a point in our battle with the pandemic where complacency could prove disastrous. I call on each and every one to remain vigilant, to continue to abide by the regulations, and to keep safe and keep others safe.
As government we will this week be providing information on the direct interventions we are taking to shield our most vulnerable citizens from the grim prospect of starvation.
Among the many difficulties our people face at this time, wondering where their next meal will come from should not be one of them.
With best wishes,
President Cyril RAMAPHOSA