Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday to move the country to lockdown level 2, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have questioned government’s continued reliance on lockdown restrictions to manage the coronavirus pandemic.
Under the adjusted lockdown level, the national curfew now starts at 11pm and ends at 4am, with non-essential establishments expected to close by 10pm.
All gatherings have been increased from a maximum of 50 people indoors to 250, and from 100 to 500 people outdoors. But funerals remain restricted to 50 people, while night vigils and after-funeral gatherings remain banned.
The sale of alcohol for off-site consumption is now allowed between 10am and 6pm from Mondays to Fridays.
End all lockdown restrictions
While welcoming the eased restrictions ahead of the local government elections on 1 November, DA leader John Steenhuisen called on the president to go further and commit to an end date for all lockdown restrictions, as well as the State of Disaster.
Steenhuisen said since government opened vaccinations in August to adults 18 years and older, the deadline to end all restrictions “must now be well within our sight”.
“At the very latest, this should happen by mid-November, which would give this age cohort [18-35] a full 12 weeks to get both jabs,” Steenhuisen said in a statement.
“This deadline needs to be announced now so that businesses affected by lockdown restrictions can plan accordingly. It is not something that can be decided and announced at the last minute, as this would put even more businesses and jobs in jeopardy.
“If business owners know that there will be no more restrictions and curfews on the 15th of November, they can try to make plans to bridge their business over the period until then.”
Steenhuisen said if Ramaphosa does not think the State of Disaster should be ended, he should give reasons why not because South Africans had made “extraordinary sacrifices in order to comply with restrictions and regulations that are seldom explained or justified”.
The president needs to take citizens into his confidence and let them know precisely why these sacrifices must continue.
The DA leader also said government should apply a regional model for lockdown restrictions based on the healthcare capacity of each region.
“Infection trends and vaccination rates differ greatly across different parts of the country and there is no single, neat wave that applies to the entire country, or even entire provinces.”
Free and fair elections
At the same time, the EFF said the restrictions on gatherings, particularly political gatherings, were contrary to the Constitution’s requirement for elections to be held in a free and fair environment.
“Ramaphosa’s continued restrictions on political gatherings remain contrary to this. Further, his hypocritical approach to Covid-19 restrictions was evident when he called for citizens to be out in their numbers in defence of property and businesses during the July 2021 civil unrest.
“This was while he had the country on adjusted level 4 restrictions,” said the EFF’s elections spokesperson, Leigh-Ann Mathys, in a statement.
Mathys said the EFF did not agree to the adjusted restrictions because they had long stopped participating in the president’s consultation meetings with parties.
“The EFF puts it on record that we did not participate in this rubber-stamping meeting with political parties who agreed to campaign under an unreasonable lockdown.
“The EFF is opposed to Ramaphosa’s continued lockdown regulations and we will not be subjected to a lockdown elections environment.”
The Red Berets said they would continue to campaign “optimally and no South African will be turned away from participating in any EFF elections programmes based on an unreasonable lockdown”.