SANAC Civil Society Forum Calls On The President and Cabinet to Put South Africans First in COVID-19 Response
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global pandemic. For any outbreak to be classified as a pandemic, it means there is big trouble. The number of cases in South Africa, mainly from people who had travelled to other areas in Asia, Europe and the Americas is exponentially increasing, demonstrating that we have a serious problem.
As of yesterday’s it was reported that South Africa has cases of 38 people who tested positive from 5 provinces. Last week at this time, we had only 3 cases that were known. It is no longer business as usual and we must act like people facing a pandemic and not be complacent and only start acting when we have serious problems. Our healthcare system is currently challenged and cannot cope and with more cases of Coronavirus, we will not cope at all.
“SANAC Civil Society Forum is firm that given the health, social and economic impact of Coronavirus, Cabinet must demonstrate political leadership. Political leadership is many things, but at elementary level it is about making choices that may be unpopular in the short-term but hailed as revolutionary with the passage of time. Not acting correctly, the Cabinet led by Cyril Ramaphosa will be remembered as a colossal failure” says Steve Letsike, Chairperson of the SANAC Civil Society Forum.
We are worried about the impact COVID-19 on People Living with HIV and those with TB, especially those who are not on treatment. Whilst we have over 4,9 million people on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART), we still have another 2 million not on treatment. We are also dealing with those defaulting on ART. Although we don’t know the interaction between the HIVirus and the Coronavirus, we have every reason to be scared about the results and impact of the interaction between these 2 virus will have on those who are HIV positive.
The SANAC Civil Society Forum has the following advice to President Ramaphosa and his Cabinet as they meet today to decide on the line of march on this 15th day of March 2020:
- SANAC structure is put into higher gear to mobilise and engage society and private sector at all levels, with you leading together with the President, Premiers, Mayors at District and Local levels working with civil society leaders to drive a whole of government and a whole of society to get into gear to defeat the calamity that is facing us. The department of Health is managing through the Minister of Health, but the problem has crossed into other lines beyond the mandate of Health. We must act, and act NOW.
- Early learning centres, schools and institutions of higher learning should be closed with immediate effect.
- All mass events be cancelled with immediate effect including but not limited to the Human Rights Day on 21 March 2020, World TB Day on 24 March 2020.
- All major religious, sporting, arts and large scale events planned to take place should be cancelled with immediate effect.
- Flights from all countries with Coronavirus be cancelled until the pandemic is brought under control. Evidence shows that all positive Coronavirus cases are from people who had travelled outside South Africa.
- Our healthcare system as diagnosed during the 2018 Presidential Health Compact indicates that we have huge challenges. Efforts are underway to fix the healthcare system, but we are not there yet and we therefore cannot afford a calamity that will crush the healthcare system from large number of positive cases of Coronavirus.
- South Africa must measure the opportunity cost of shutdown and in some instances restrictions of economic and social platforms as opposed to doing nothing or hoping that washing of hands is the only solution. Some people are not able afford to wash hands as they do not have clean running water just to drink and washing hands without water is asking for the impossible. Yes, those who have access to clean water to drink and wash their hands should, but the reality is that some South Africans do not enjoy this option.
- We are calling for a radical shift to “social distance” as the only possible measures to assist us to avoid large scale infections. Even with the social distance measures, poverty and inequality will triumph as we still have people living in squalor and conditions that will make a mockery of creating social distance. However it is better to do something in small measure than to do nothing at all.
- Beyond these pronouncements we await, we call on government to put in place a massive public education drive supported by social mobilization using the SANAC structures as the platform for engagement.
SANAC Civil Society Forum is a partner to government, and our inputs based on the advice above is to ensure that collectively with government and the private sector, we work and walk together to cushion our country from the impending calamity that faces us.
Letsike concludes by saying that “We hope that yourself President Ramaphosa as the apex leader of Cabinet, supported by the Deputy President DD Mabuza you will see the need to lead the efforts that have been ably led by the Minister of Health Dr. Zweli Mkhize. Premiers and Executive Mayors together with social partners through the SANAC structure must lead and be in the forefront in addressing Coronavirus”.
We have entered an era of invisible war, and how we fight will determine if we will win this war. We are the soldiers that you can count on, and we speak on behalf of business and government that none of us would like to see South Africa on its knees because we chose not to act.
We will judge Cabinet and the President by what will be announced as the decision of the meeting of Cabinet of today, 15 March 2020.
Issued by the SANAC Civil Society Forum (CSF)
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