South African political party leaders, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, have pledged to put aside their differences and pursue a consorted, non-partisan approach towards containing the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Ramaphosa and leaders of opposition parties made the announcement on Wednesday following a meeting in Cape Town, where all the parties discussed the nation’s response to Covid-19.
The president said this would be part of the wide-ranging consultation process that he is currently engaged in, after announcing a national state of disaster on Sunday night.
According to Ramaphosa, all the parties vowed “to limit all political gatherings and keep any meetings to fewer than 100 people”.
This falls in line with the measures the president declared during his national state of disaster announcement to limit the increase in Covid-19 infections.
“We are not helpless as a country, all citizens can play a role towards ensuring that the spread of this virus is limited. All political parties must also bear the responsibility of giving citizens regular and accurate information pertaining to the virus,” said Ramaphosa.
The president made it clear that the country finds itself in an “extreme situation requiring extraordinary measures”, adding that “it requires that all South Africans work together in unity and solidarity, in partnership and cooperation”.
“It is therefore both appropriate and significant that the 14 political parties in our Parliament stand together, across party political divides, to fight this disease. We hereby demonstrate practically that we are united as the leaders of our nation to overcome this global crisis facing our country and our people.”
He added that during the course of their discussions, the parties had agreed that:
- The severity of the Covid-19 threat requires an exceptional response that draws on all the resources and capabilities of our nation. Such response needs to be immediate and sustained;
- Overwhelming concern must be for the health and wellbeing of all South Africans, particularly the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable. The actions taken and the decisions made must be informed by this imperative’
- While Covid-19 poses a great threat to our nation, we are not helpless. There is much we can do, as a country and as individual citizens, to slow the spread of the disease, to save lives and improve health outcomes, and to bring the epidemic to an end. Every person, institution and grouping has a role to play in combating this disease;
- An effective popular campaign against this disease depends on the provision of regular and accurate information to the public, and access for all to screening, testing and treatment. It demands transparency and accountability from the responsible authorities;
- An effective response also requires heightened levels of personal responsibility on the part of citizens. This includes personal infection control measures such as regular hand washing, avoiding public gatherings and maintaining a distance from other people;
- Personal responsibility also means that we should avoid behaviour such as unnecessary physical contact or excessive alcohol use, which increase the chances of infection. We should be alert to disinformation, rumour and fake news, and ensure that we do not disseminate it;
- Citizens are called on to refrain from making excessive purchases. It is important to understand that the supply of goods remains continuous, supply chains remain intact, and there is no need for stockpiling of any items;
- All social partners – specifically government, business and labour – need to jointly develop and implement measures to mitigate the economic effects of Covid-19. Companies in distress need to be assisted and jobs and livelihoods need to be preserved.