President Cyril Ramaphosa says SA cannot remain under lockdown forever, despite the Covid-19 surge.
Engaging with the public on Wednesday via a virtual presidential imbizo, Ramaphosa said the economy needed to reopen so citizens can survive and keep their jobs.
The presidential imbizo was broadcast on community radio platforms and YouTube.
The engagement was to allow the public to ask the president questions on the government’s response to the pandemic. Some of the questions were on issues like the reopening of schools, businesses, and the controversial cigarette ban.
Here are five key answers to some of the questions.
Ramaphosa said the cigarette sale ban would be lifted soon but did not say when.
“Cigarettes are not banned forever in our country and the ban will be lifted. It is still in place now in terms of our regulations and I think we should accept it as such, and with time when we go to another level, the ban on cigarettes will also be lifted.”
Reopening of schools
The decision to reopen schools was “calculated” to save the schooling year, said Ramaphosa.
“The issue of opening schools was extensively canvassed with parents, with the teaching fraternity and a whole number of other key role players in our society. It was a calculated risk to return millions of young people back to school so that we do not lose the academic year.”
Reopening of economy
Ramaphosa said people need to earn a living and businesses need to reopen to survive.
“Our economy will shrink, unemployment will rise, the government will have to borrow more and at least in the middle term, South Africans will on average be poorer.”
He said the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country is a pandemic that SA has to beat.
“Police should not dismiss and pass judgment in instances where a victim of GBV has been violated by a mentally-challenged perpetrator. The victim’s needs come first. Redress must begin with the victim and before dealing with the perpetrator.”
Death penalty bill
He said the death penalty was not compatible with the introduction of the constitution and the Bill of Rights.
“I am aware that the calls for the death penalty often come in light of the rising GBV but we are bound by our constitution. Instead, there are other means of meting out punishment such as handing down a life sentence with hard labour.”