As expected, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night that he will move the country to Alert Level 1, on September 20, which further relaxes restrictions on the movement and economic activity of South Africans.
Ramaphosa hinted that such a move was on the cards last week during a virtual press conference, after he was asked if the government was considering it, given the reduction in the rate of new Covid-19 infections.
Under Level 1, the country’s borders to varying degrees will start to reopen, restaurants can operate at increased capacity, up to 100 people may attend a funeral and from October 1, travel into and out of South Africa will be allowed.
As usual, Ramaphosa provided broad guidelines of what will happen under Level 1, and said he would leave it to his ministers to spell out the specifics.
Aside from the relaxing of restrictions, the move to Level 1 also coincides with the reconstruction and recovery plan, which is to be announced in the coming weeks.
Deals in the making
The plan is part of an “ambitious social compact for economic recovery” being developed at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), an institution that facilitates discussions between the government, trade unions, business and community organisations on labour and development issues.
Details of what’s being developed still remains under wraps, but there are already signs that the social compact is taking shape. A report states that a deal has been struck between the government and business regarding the turning around of troubled power utility, Eskom.
According to Bloomberg, under this arrangement, the government will remove all regulatory obstacles that hinder companies from generating their own electricity, while businesses agreed to implement projects to add 2 500 megawatts of supply within two years.
This move regarding Eskom follows Ramaphosa and Finance Minister Tito Mboweni saying the Covid-19 crisis should not be wasted, as it offers an opportunity to reshape not only the economy, but also the structural arrangements that lock so many people out of economic opportunities.
Ramaphosa is regularly criticised for not moving fast enough when it comes to implementing structural reforms.
But as he pointed out last week, while he may be president, acting rashly would serve no one’s interest.
Ramaphosa – what he’s good at
As such, getting a wide range of participants with differing views to draw up a new social compact at Nedlac is probably the best way to address these pressing issues.
It’s often forgotten now, but these kinds of multi-stakeholder arrangements – where participants seemingly have divergent objectives – was the type of thing Ramaphosa as a trade union leader and later an ANC negotiator, excelled at.
It is not only Ramaphosa’s forte; it was also something the country discovered it had the knack for in the 1990s. Back then, for example, instead of putting Apartheid perpetrators on trial, we adopted the concept of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to address the wrongs of the past.
And also, let’s not forget it was the die-hard communist Joe Slovo who came up with the idea of a government of national unity, which allowed onetime belligerents, the NP and ANC, to run the country together.
Without Slovo’s proposal, a peaceful transfer of power would have been incredibly difficult.
But then after we adopted our shiny world renowned new Constitution, and basked in ‘Madiba Magic’, we stopped truly innovating – aside from the stuff we did to win a couple of Rugby World Cups.
With the country once again in peril, the Covid Crisis has set the scene for SA to once again come up with something novel.
The Nedlac plan is yet to be made public, but hopefully, it will go some way to addressing the oversites that happened 30 years ago when SA transitioned into a democracy. Back then we largely got the democracy stuff right but didn’t really understand the importance of getting more people into the economy.
Hopefully, this time we will get it right.
Hopefully this time we will rediscover our innovating streak and come up with stuff that not only addresses the economic wrongs but also creates the base for a vibrant economically-inclusive country.
Listen: Sanlam Investments economist Arthur Kamp on what Level 1 may mean for the economy