‘You cannot expect people to carry on like this’: Organisation calls for lockdown to end

An organisation which says it represents more than 4,000 businesses has called on the government to call off the lockdown which has left many with no means of putting food on the table.
Image: 123RF/LEON SWART

An organisation claiming to represent thousands of businesses has called on the government to call off the lockdown, which it says has left many with no means of putting food on the table.

The group “End Lockdown SA” made the call on Sunday in an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and members of his executive, among others. They argued that the lockdown has impacted negatively on their ability to make an income since it was imposed nearly 110 days ago.

“Many of us are self-employed and, like myself, in the event industry, our industry has not had an income since March 2020. That’s almost four months now with no income. For how long can we go on like this?” asked Clinton William-Barrat.

He said it did not make sense to open some sections of the economy and not others.

“Casinos, sit-down restaurants and hairdressers, and most of SA economy, is open except gyms and the event industry and bars and pubs, etc,” he said.

He argued that every job is essential to the person who relies on that income to feed their family.

While the government had made available a R350 distress grant for those unemployed, William-Barrat said this was not enough.

“We must pay rent and buy food. Do you really think we can live on the R350 a month? So many of our members WhatsApp me each day and say how they struggling … to receive [the grant] or they were declined for no reason. And then members [are] also struggling with UIF.

“You cannot expect people to carry on like this …” he said.

He slammed some of the lockdown regulations, saying many were contradictory.

“The rules don’t make sense. You can’t visit friends and family, but you can just see them at a casino or a restaurant or a shopping mall or at church. You can’t smoke, which doesn’t cause traffic accidents, but you can drink liquor until you can’t stand any more.

“You can’t go to gym and have events, but you can go up a shopping mall where there are thousands of people,” he said.

William-Barrat said it was not the first time a virus had hit the country.

“We, as humans, have lived with viruses [for] many years. But we never had a lockdown for flu or TB or Aids or anything. But for Covid-19, where over 80% recover, we do a lockdown,” he said.

The organisation said it would abide by regulations if the lockdown was lifted. It argued that many people, especially in densely populated areas, had been ignoring the regulations anyway.

“My question is: what’s the use of living if we can’t enjoy life, go out [and] be with friends and family? Must we stay at home and just feel sorry for ourselves? We need to live with the virus and carry on. Stop treating the citizens like children. We can practise social distancing and wearing masks, etc,” he said.

End Lockdown SA has given the government a week to respond to its call – but did not mention any consequences should the letter not be replied to.

BY NONKULULEKO NJILO

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