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Lockdown decision: Ramaphosa was bold, decisive and presidential

Where has he been all this time?
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the nation from the Union Buildings in Tshwane, on government’s response on additional measures to contain the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Image: Jairus Mmutle, GCIS

Undoubtedly, humanity will pay a staggering price for Covid-19. For South Africa it was as if this epidemic-induced crisis, shook her leaders to wakefulness of the potential human cost of inaction.

Finally, many watched President Cyril Ramaphosa become the leader they had expected him to be: bold, decisive, measured, intentional and very clear about what his government must do. Furthermore, by roping in non-government and opposition parties, he showed the importance of inclusive leadership, bound by the common vision of pursuing extraordinary measures to combat the spread of the virus and serve South Africans.

On Monday night, he announced a 21-day lockdown effective from midnight on March 26, 2020, as a measure to contain and reduce the spread of the virus. In a thorough address, he outlined key plans of action in the most sobering statement in recent years of democratic South Africa.

At a time of great uncertainty, Ramaphosa led, with assurance and poise.

At a time when leaders in some of the world’s advanced economies in Europe were faltering, undecided and seemingly stunned by the rapid spread of Covid-19, Ramaphosa showed them how to lead in times of great crisis and global threat.

It’s not every day on social media that the English use South Africa as an example of good leadership in calling out their leaders for failing to act decisively on issues of national importance. As a nation, we tend to be too hard on ourselves and rarely applaud good decisions. Whatever your views are on the governing party, we must acknowledge that when some world leaders were fiddling while their countries were in a crisis, our political leaders to their credit acted swiftly, had a clear message and made informed decisions.

Additionally, since the first announcement, his administration has made necessary reforms to ensure that various government systems are agile in responding to the crisis – something that some states in Europe are yet to achieve as seen in Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Knock-on effects

The bad news is that it’s going to be tough, even unbearable for a while before it gets better. Whichever way the markets will move, the irrefutable fact is that the 21-day lockdown will have profound knock-on effects on South Africa, economically and politically.

First, until the coronavirus outbreak the Tripartite Alliance was not the poster child of unity and coherence; it had been in thrown into disarray by different factions seeking to assert control on the National Executive Committee (NEC). However, since the March 15 inter-ministerial briefing on Covid-19, the mood in the alliance has changed – because finally, their leader has shown he holds the real power in the land.

Furthermore, what Ramaphosa got right in his first announcement, was to ensure that the ministries would take the lead. This way, any intransigent action by a minister would be seen as sabotage or unwillingness to put internal party differences aside in serving the nation. By the end of this crisis, provided it turns out to be the great escape, Ramaphosa might emerge as the biggest winner, with full control of the NEC, because which alliance politician will want to be on the wrong side of a successful response in a time of crisis?

Second, the adverse effects on the economy will be profound, considering no one really knows how long this global pandemic will last. Consequently, no one knows how the global economy will adjust. A global recession threat loomed at the beginning of the year, then quickly dissipated. Now, with governments all over the world realising the importance of lockdown in this extraordinary time, ergo restricted shutdowns of their economies, South Africa will be one of the worst affected.

Beset by enduring long-term unemployment at 29% and an economy already in recession and poverty, the efficacy of economic interventions such as the Solidarity Fund and money set aside to assist businesses will only go so far. The point is, the longer the crisis continues the more likely it will deepen existing challenges.

That said, President Ramaphosa made the right decision.

Difficult, even painful choices had to be made in the now, to ensure survival in the future. Ironically, Monday’s statement marked a defining moment for the incumbent. It will also be a defining moment for South Africa’s key stakeholders. Does it take a global crisis for everyone to put the interest of the country first, for decisive leadership to be noticeable, or is just flickers of a moment that will soon fade?

For the first time in a long period, on Monday night I felt like South Africa has leaders who know where they want to take the country, how to get there and what to do once there.

A flicker of hope.

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COMMENTS   27

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Agree wholeheartedly.

hahahahahah Ben-you must be joking.

In response to the headline.

The guy cant keep time and is always late. Therefor unorganised.

Its obvious in the state of SOE’s that has been under his personal care for close to a decade. If he is left to run this what do you expect?

And there wont be any “great escape”. They can run anywhere now and within a few weeks it would be obvious even to them that no one will have them.

Stuck here with us and might even get an eyeful of the local healthcare system.

The government needs immediately to start preparing for the day when the poorest run out of money to buy food. The biggest concern will be hangry crowds wandering around. Will someone please let them know.

….so true …what Rama should have done is use the army medic to issue Hydroxychloroquine on mass …period …no ventilators required

Agree he was but what about the lawless masses. The millions that have no clue as to what or why. those the ANC kept uneducated, are now telling to wash their hands every ten minutes at the nearest tap 2 km away.

The writer is digging deep to find anything good to say about the president? Trolling at it’s best.

This bold action may just be the last straw in an economy that could barely hold it together. A lockdown in a country like South Africa is absurd. They ought to have followed the Dutch model and focused their extremely limited resources on protecting those that are deemed high risk. Absolutely nothing was done in South Africa during the SARS outbreak. This is SARS 2 by another name. Social media has caused this mass hysteria. Case in point would be how polio was dealt with less than fifty years ago – no lockdowns, no crazy. History is not going to be kind to these leaders.

Here is what a bold, decisive and presidential decision would have been.

Jan 22: receive the memo that easy human- human transmission virus with ~4% mortality rate is spreading.

Jan 23: Start placing travel bans on countries that start showing or have suspected cases. Start stocking up on medical equip & supplies.

Taiwan, HK, Singapore, Japan did this. Near zero community spread in these regions. Virus contained, no lockdowns, economies still humming!

CR started taking action a week ago.. and the price to pay will probably be phenomenal.

How about procrastinating, hesitant and indecisive???

Im sorry but what a load of garbage, do you really think himself and the ANC could come up with this sort of framework? NO! copy + paste for Trump/EU new Covid policies. come on guys what happened to critical thinking?

Very easy to criticise from the sidelines isn’t it.
Taking advice from others who have either gone through the drills before
or have a resident body of world class experts is nothing to be ashamed of.
Scorning this article is laughable. You haven’t proffered a single thing that resembles
critical thinking. Refelxive trolling at its best.

Trolling? I’m entitled to my comment. Don’t like it? move on! Must have touched a sensitive spot over there, my apologies.

The way government, the ANC, and the media are pushing this “Cyril the Saviour” narrative is very revealing.

Mamokgethi, I’m surprised you’re surprised.

Don’t you get it? For the first time ever, Cyril has a free hand in a situation where there is zero political risk. He didn’t have to worry about the Zuma-Magashule-Mabuza nexus, or about the EFF, or about being seen to waver on policies that are populist, but ruinous.

Two things come out of this:

1) The government has proven that it can handle a massive crisis competently. We should not let them forget that when we return to the other massive crises.

2) Cyril’s cup overfloweth with Brownie Points. It will surely be almost impossible for the ANC NEC to recall him after his deft handling of this crisis. And that might give him enough political capital to tackle the State Capturers head-on.

The downside Rob: all govt screw ups into infinity are now going to be a result of The Virus. We are going to be stuck with this forever. On the upside: we won’t be having much of “it’s a legacy of apartheid “any longer.

You win some, you lose some.

: )

Not too sure about any credit due.
The more nuanced decisions form the president which could lead to economic growth and prosperity are more sought after than black & white lockdown or no lock down. Is quite easy to be decisive in the latter case especially when main stream media has all the sheep running petrified.
We still need Cyril to abolish BEE and LEWC before the country and leader can be taken seriously again.

blah blah rubbish columnist who deleted comments he doesn’t like

If you have so firm a viewpoint then why did you read the article AND THEN feel the need to comment.
Or maybe you didn’t read the article and went straight to the comments. Either you like wasting your time by reading columnists that you think are rubbish or you like engaging the keyboard before anything else.

We read everything. That way we stay up to date.

I was proud to be a South African and proud of our President during and after the speech.
Respect Cyril Respect

Woolly Bully for you.

HeHeHe. You are easily pleased, we want more from our president than just copy and paste.

“It is shocking and disheartening that the looting which has been the order of the day for the past 10 years to date is now felt by the ordinary workers at shop floor level threatening their livelihood and the very existence of the airline,” the NTM statement said.

Of course the ANC will act decisively if there is a chance of millions of their voters being wiped out.

The Pres looked like a puppet being force fed words. That came two weeks to late.

How disappointing to read the negative comments here.
If you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem – don’t see any solutions offered here! So what does that say about you?
If Mr Ramaphosa can pull this off, I’m going to vote ANC for the first time in my life. In my opinion he is our only hope to see us through this crisis.
Instead of criticizing, get off your backsides and do something constructive.
There might not be the time left to redeem yourselves.

End of comments.

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