JOHANNESBURG, 29 December 2020 – The Community Constituency Front (CCF) is very concerned with the speech of President Cyril Ramaphosa made on Monday night, 28 December 2020 when he announced measures to move the country from level 1 to adjusted level 3. Our concerns stem from the fact that the measures announced demonstrate that the President and his Cabinet see the solutions only through the lens of business interests which are about saving the economy and not about the people.
The praises heaped on Solidarity Fund when in actual fact the Solidarity Fund is acting against the people and advancing the interests of government and business is a real travesty to justice. Getting praise for paying R283 million that is not yours for a vaccine that will hit the shores of South Africa in the second quarter of 2021 is nothing worth celebrating. But the President chose to wax lyrical about a non-starter when details are not even shared.
The South African Youth Council (SAYC), a constituent member of the Community Constituency Front through its President Thembinkosi Josopu says that “The current COVID-19 measures announced by President Ramaphosa are elitist, anti-poor and not informed by science. Instead these measures are clearly a money-making scheme for some.” Josopu continues further by adding that “The case in point is the public relations campaign currently being run by the Solidarity Fund which the President heaped praises on. Some guys behind a desktop at advertising agency Joe Public thought of what is best for the majority of our people and called them Moegoes and Mampara’s rather than going to them to talk, understand their lived conditions in a language they understand so that they come up with a campaign that if informed. A lot of money went on adverts that are misplaced, that don’t make sense, that have racial innuendos and undertones costing millions of rands which is small change for the Solidarity Fund. For this wastage, they are praised by the President. This campaign according to Solidarity Fund, President Ramaphosa and his Cabinet and Joe Public constitutes behaviour change messaging. WHAT A WASTE MONEY!”
There are a number of things we expected the President and his Cabinet to have focused on as they outlined the steps that will help us navigate the second wave of COVID, but they dismally failed. The blame is put squarely on the people and this means the poor who are choiceless, who brave the heat and the rain to que for the R350 social relief grant at Post Offices across the country. The problem is not only with the people for not complying, it is also with businesses for not enforcing the existing regulations and government not playing its part to ensure full compliance. We are in this together and we all hold the solutions. The regulations are clear about the capacity people that must be accommodated in different business establishments. These were not followed by those who own these businesses and then the people who use them are the ones blamed. As the SAYC we believe that “The President speech was to provide an emphasis is on saving the economy rather than saving lives. We know what this means i.e. preservation of profit for the ‘haves’ while putting the ‘have nots’ at great risk because they don’t have access to quality healthcare services and will be the last in line when the vaccine hits the shores because already business interests have reserved their stockpile because their money is what decides what is important for the President and Cabinet. They will be beneficiaries whilst the people will have to fend for themselves.”
We have always made the point that we view Community Based Measures and Interventions as central to responding to COVID. We have said that #communitiesmatter and those in charge should involve communities and people who understand such communities in crafting solutions that will be sustainable. Our position has always been clear that you don’t talk to people through TV, radio, social media or newspapers without ensuring that this approach is supported by the human touch – people to people engagements that ensures that when clarity is sought, answers are provided and when people want to vent, their anger is listened to. Solutions must be co-created so that when regulations are announced, they represent the collective ownership of the steps that must be taken.
As the Community Constituency Front, we are of the view that there should be a variety of scholars from different disciplines in advising government on its interventions. The over-reliance on business lobbyists and clinical scientists at the expense of civil society and social scientists is a mis-step that has resulted in the poor response to COVID we have all witnessed. Monday’s announcement was an emergency even though COVID has been with us for a while. Solutions we have proposed have been ignored because only those of business matter. For things to change so that we make the strides we seek to make, we must all walk and work together because we must all #ThinkTwiceAboutCOVID.
President Ramaphosa and your Cabinet, we are here to serve with you. We are patriotic citizens who in a small way are serving the country. Work with us in the same way you work with Solidarity Fund and business. As civil society, our voice and actions count too.
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About the Community Constituency Front (CCF)
The Community Constituency Front was established and is led by SANAC Civil Society Forum (CSF) and the NEDLAC Community Trust. The Community Constituency Covid-19 Front is a front that facilitate the participation of civil society sectors and networks and their constituent member organisations, in the national response and implementation of Community-Based Measures in response to the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19). The Community Constituency Front is Co-Chaired by Steve Letsike (from CSF) and Thulani Tshefuta (Overall Convener of the NEDLAC Community Constituency)