Johannesburg – The DA is forging ahead with its campaign against the government’s approach to the risk-adjusted reopening of the economy as it accuses it of being too restrictive for business operations.

This comes as the 35-day level five hard lockdown ends at midnight on Thursday, which will see the country moved down to level four of the process, where more businesses will be allowed to operate at a restricted level to avoid the spread of coronavirus in the workplace.

Under the level four framework, manufacturing companies will be allowed to operate, scaling up from 20% to full employment depending on the sector, while some wholesale retail trade will also be permitted.

Alcohol sales will remain banned while restaurants will only be allowed to prepare food for delivery.

In its submitted comments to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma ahead of the publishing of the framework as regulations, the DA complained that the government was “too incremental” and that the incoming level four resembled the current hard lockdown of level five.

Covid-19 has infected just under 5000 people and killed over 90 people in South Africa and President Cyril Ramaphosa insisted that the phased reopening of the economy was to ensure the progress made in containing the spread of the global pandemic was not undermined.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said that while the official opposition believed the move to level four was right, the regulations governing it were problematic.

“We need to open up the economy far more than it is being opened up. Some of the regulations are blunt instruments. Some of them are not targeted enough and won’t have the desired effect of opening up the economy sufficiently so that we protect South Africans from the dual threat of a loss of life due to the virus and the loss of livelihoods in SA,” Steenhuisen said.

Business Leadership SA chief executive Busisiwe Mavuso said it would be challenging for the government to open certain sectors of the economy in isolation since they were interlinked.

“There are going to be difficulties. Supply chains stretch far and wide and few are truly independent of others. In a sense, everything is connected. The approach of letting certain parts of the economy operate – either geographically or segmentally – is almost inevitably going to run up against supply chain blockages,” Mavuso said.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh said the IFP was supportive of the regulations provided they were fully guided by experts and the country’s infection rate.

However, Singh said the regulations needed to be more specific, including on how volumes of people would be managed as they would now get out of their homes as a result of reopened businesses.

“With them now dropping to level four and more people being on the road, will all those people be required to provide essential permits? There needs to be clarity even on how we will ensure that businesses comply with the safety rules to protect workers,” Singh said.

While the DA threatened to go to court to challenge the deployment of more soldiers to enforce the level 4 lockdown which will be accompanied by a curfew, the IFP has called for the de-concentration of the enforcement in urban areas and suggested that it be accompanied by random raids in peri-urban and rural areas.


By Siviwe Feketha