Show of political unity as South Africa battles Covid-19 outbreak

President Cyril Ramaphosa has held an emergency meeting with the political parties represented in Parliament to update leaders on the latest reports in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

After meeting at the president’s office in Cape Town, in a gesture in stark contrast to the usual rough and tumble of party politics in South Africa, President Ramaphosa and party leaders issued a joint statement on the coronavirus outbreak.

“All leaders agree that the Covid-19 outbreak poses a grave and real threat to the lives, livelihoods and prosperity of our people. Our country finds itself in an extreme situation that requires extraordinary measures. It requires that all South Africans work together in unity and solidarity, in partnership and co-operation. It is, therefore, both appropriate and significant that the 14 political parties in our Parliament are standing together, across party-political divides, to fight this disease together,” the statement said. 

Political leaders agreed that, among other things, the government’s response to the outbreak must be immediate and sustained and that poor, elderly, and vulnerable communities must be prioritised. Leaders also called on people to refrain from panic-buying to ensure that the supply chain for essential items remains intact. 

“While Covid-19 poses a great threat to our nation, we are not helpless. There is much we can do, as a country and as individual citizens, to slow the spread of the disease, to save lives and improve health outcomes, and to bring the epidemic to an end. Every person, institution and grouping has a role to play in combating this disease,” the statement said. 


After the meeting, leaders addressed the media in a show of unity. 

Ramaphosa said it was a turning point, as political opponents find solidarity and unity of purpose against the continued spread of the disease. “The 14 political parties in our parliamentary system have found it good to stand together, across party political divides to fight this disease together based on advancing the interests of the people of South Africa and also defending the lives of our people. We are demonstrating we are united.”  

Opposition input

Opposition leaders have backed the government’s plan to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

The Democratic Alliance’s John Steenhuisen said the president had also provided a platform for parties to provide their input on how to manage the crisis. 

“I’m comfortable [about] how the health aspect of it has been handled by [Health Minister] Dr Zweli Mkhize, and that the efforts to flatten the curve are the right ones. We share with you the ingrained effect it is going to have on our economy, particularly in keeping the doors of small businesses open and particularly keeping South Africans in work,” the official opposition’s interim leader said.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema said that as political parties show support for the president, the private sector should also back the campaign in limiting the disease’s spread. 

“As the EFF we fully appreciate the initiative by the government and call upon South Africans to listen to the leadership of the government and follow exactly as we are told. We call upon all business people who are dealing with gloves, sanitisers [and] masks not to try to maximise profit out of this crisis. We also call upon private hospitals that the only way to avoid the nationalisation of those private hospitals is by fully co-operating with the minister of health when he needs beds for our sick people. It is not time to make profit,” Malema said. 
After a final sitting on Wednesday, Parliament with its 400 members of the National Assembly and 90 delegates to the National Council of Provinces will be suspended indefinitely as national state of disaster regulations to limit the gathering of large groups of people come into effect. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit
Lester Kiewit is a Reporter, Journalist, and Broadcaster.

Related stories

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures are relaxed or ignored

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Deconstructing South Africa’s construction industry performance

The construction industry has contracted sharply, partly due to Covid, and needs to rebalance its focus if it wants to survive

Fort Hare students test positive for Covid after partying

The 30 students, who went to a bash at a tavern in East London, were not wearing masks, did not sanitise their hands nor keep to social distancing regulations.

Black construction businesses sidelined

When it comes to mega infrastructure projects, it is still the mega white-owned companies who score government contracts

Tracking, tracing and transparency

Governments are processing tons of personal information to limit the spread of Covid-19. They must ensure this does not cost us our privacy

Covid-19 disrupts HIV and TB services

While data is still trickling in on how much the pandemic affects health systems, there are far-reaching consequences for people living with HIV and tuberculosis.
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Reject the dichotomy of political horrors

Senekal shows us that we must make a stand against the loud voice of the populist EFF and racist rightwingers

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday