As South Africa’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) rose to 116 this morning, leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament met in Tuynhuys, in Cape Town, with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss a coordinated response.
The IFP’s Deputy President, the Hon. Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi MP, participated in the meeting, providing the IFP’s input in terms of concerns, plans and suggestions. Together with all parties present, the IFP confirmed its commitment to a shared and unified effort to halt the spread of Covid-19 and to protect all South Africa’s citizens.
Immediately after the meeting, a media briefing was held, in which President Ramaphosa indicated the outcome and invited the biggest parties in Parliament to address the media. The Minister in the Presidency, Minister Jackson Mthembu, called on the DA to speak, and then the EFF.
However, in a strange turn of events, Minister Mthembu then broke from protocol, omitting the fourth largest political party, the IFP. Instead, he went straight to the smaller parties in order of size; the FF+, the ACDP and the UDM. The briefing was then adjourned to enable parties to attend the final sitting of Parliament.
The error on the part of Minister Mthembu has created the impression that the IFP was not present in the briefing or that the IFP is not a significant presence in Parliament. While Minister Mthembu has contacted the IFP to offer an apology, his error is deeply regrettable, as the IFP represents hundreds of thousands of South Africans, is the third largest opposition party in Parliament and is the Official Opposition in KwaZulu Natal.
We therefore take this opportunity to deliver our message to the nation.
The dramatic and rapid spread of Covid-19 has created uncertainty and fear, particularly among the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. There is concern over the devastating effects Covid-19 could have on poorer communities and those living in informal settlements, as well as in communities where water is scarce or unavailable.
Tragically, we face this national disaster in a time of economic crisis. The effects of Covid-19 will be severe for many businesses and our economy will be further weakened.
The IFP believes that in the midst of this unprecedented crisis, the President and his Cabinet are providing strong leadership. We support the measures announced on Sunday 15 March to flatten the curve and place South Africa in a strong position to withstand the effects of Covid-19.
This is not the time for panic, hysteria and misinformation. It is the time for wisdom and responsible action. We urge all South Africans to heed the precautionary instructions of avoiding social contact, seeking medical advice if ill, washing hands regularly, self-isolating if instructed to do so, using disposable tissues when coughing or sneezing, and keeping a safe distance from one other in public.
These measures will slow the spread of Covid-19 and enable our response system to cope; from medical facilities to goods supply chains. There is no need to bulk buy items at this point, and indeed panic buying is strongly discouraged as it negatively impacts those who are not able to easily access retail outlets, including the elderly, the disabled and those relying on public transport.
In this time of heightened threat, the IFP’s leadership will be actively working with communities to alleviate the negative consequences of Covid-19 and to stop its spread.
Accordingly, all members of the IFP’s National Executive Committee (NEC) are being regularly screened for Covid-19 and will be tested as needed, to ensure that our own leaders protect all those they come in contact with.
The NEC will be meeting with all Mayors and Executive Councils from the twelve IFP-led local and district municipalities in KwaZulu Natal to ensure the state of readiness for rapid response to extensive Covid-19 infections, as well as immediate response to the economic and social implications.
Through the Deputy President, the IFP has raised several issues with President Ramaphosa, including the need to provide rescue and stimulus packages to small businesses which are being hard hit. The threat of job losses must be considered as damaging as the threat to health.
We have also urged Government to act swiftly to provide emergency water supply to municipalities where water is scarce, so that health precautions can be followed and to ensure that our people’s immune systems are not further compromised by poor hygiene.
The state of disarray in the Department of Water and Sanitation is deeply concerning. The Covid-19 crisis will undoubtedly highlight weaknesses in service delivery and administration, and Government should heed the lessons learned. Corruption, which has destroyed many Government programmes and plans, must be eliminated from the present disaster response.
We call on all Ministers to provide targeted solutions, with speed and efficiency, placing the best interests of our people first. We must prioritise relief for those who rely on grants, those who require care and chronic medication, those whose income will be affected and those whose businesses will suffer.
The IFP will continue to support the responsive measures announced by Government. We will pray for our nation, and we will work alongside communities, so that Covid-19 will never beat South Africa.
The Hon. Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa MP
National Spokesperson of the IFP
071 111 0539