20 April 2020
20 April 2020 - From the desk of the President
20 April 2020 - From the desk of the President
Dear Fellow South African,
Many countries around the world have imposed coronavirus lockdowns with a view to
saving the lives of their citizens. We have done the same in our country, but our lockdown
has revealed a very sad fault line in our society that reveals how grinding poverty, inequality
and unemployment is tearing the fabric of our communities apart.
There can be no greater anguish than that of a parent whose children cry out to them for
food, but they have none to give.
There can be no greater injustice than a society where some live in comfort and plenty, while
others struggle at the margins to survive with little or nothing at all.
Yes, these are the residual effects of a fractured and unequal past. But they are also a
symptom of a fundamental failing in our post-apartheid society. The nationwide lockdown
in response to the coronavirus has gravely exarcerbated a long-standing problem.
Over the past three weeks, we have been confronted with distressing images of desperate
people clamouring for food parcels at distribution centres and of community protests
against food shortages.
We have also had to contend with allegations both disturbing and disgusting. A number of
provinces have received reports that callous individuals, some of them allegedly
government ofcials, are hoarding or selling food parcels earmarked for the needy and
destitute, or diverting them to their friends and families.
If there is found to be substance to these allegations we will deal with the individuals
With the declaration of a national state of disaster and the imposition of a nation-wide
lockdown we entered uncharted waters. South Africa has never had to deal with a public
health emergency of this magnitude.
We had to act quickly to save lives. And we must acknowledge that in the days and weeks
that have followed, the provision of support to our country’s most vulnerable citizens has
been slower than required, and that lapses have occurred.
However, the payment of social grants has proceeded relatively smoothly, and after a
number of technical challenges, the food distribution system is being streamlined.
Imposing a nationwide lockdown at very short notice presented several challenges. We
have had to weigh up the proportionality of the national response and the extent of
restrictions we would need to impose.
We ultimately chose to err on the side of caution. And as the presentation by the Ministry of
Health last week indicated, enforcing a lockdown at the time we did has slowed down the
rate of infection and, more importantly, bought us time to prepare for a probable surge in
infections in the coming weeks and months.
We had to consider the impact on an already oundering economy in both the long and
short term, and the impact of this substantial disruption on the livelihoods of millions of
We had to consider what weeks of connement to the home would mean for the employed
not paid regular salaries, for the unemployed and those seeking work, for those in casual or
seasonal employment, for those in the informal sector, for the indigent and for the
Cabinet will nalise a set of measures to respond to the impact of the lockdown on the
livelihoods of our people. This has been preceded by a range of engagements with a
number of stakeholders including business, labour, religious organisations, civil society and
the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.
The social partners have put forward a number of proposals on interventions that could
address the immediate vulnerability of the poorest of the poor, most of whom rely on social
assistance to survive.
We will scale up welfare provision during this period to help households living below the
Even when the nation-wide lockdown is lifted, its effects will continue to be felt for some
time to come.
Those fortunate to have a steady income will be able to return to their jobs; but for millions
of others this will be a lost month where they would otherwise have found temporary work,
done business in the informal sector or saved money earned to meet their family
Food support is a short-term emergency measure. It will need to be matched by sustainable
solutions that help our most vulnerable citizens weather the difcult times that are still to
I wish to thank the many NGOs, religious groups and ordinary citizens who are donating
money and volunteering to help feed the hungry and destitute.
Alleviating hunger is not an act of charity. It is an imperative for any society that is founded
on respect for human rights.
We are at a point in our battle with the pandemic where complacency could prove
disastrous. I call on each and every one to remain vigilant, to continue to abide by the
regulations, and to keep safe and keep others safe.
As government we will this week be providing information on the direct interventions we are
taking to shield our most vulnerable citizens from the grim prospect of starvation.
Among the many difculties our people face at this time, wondering where their next meal
will come from should not be one of them.
With best wishes,
Building on the stimulus and recovery plan, government will finalise a clear economic growth strategy
within the next few weeks. This strategy will draw on the many valuable contributions that have been
made by South Africans on the discussion paper released by National Treasury.
Several parts of the growth strategy are already in place. These include how we can strengthen our
reform programme, a revitalised industrial strategy in support of key growth sectors and the establishment of an Infrastructure Fund with a clear plan to revive infrastructure investment. Much work is underway to improve the ease and reduce the cost of doing business, as are efforts to restructure state owned
enterprises and ensure that they perform better in meeting the country's needs. A clear strategy to place
Eskom on a sustainable path of recovery is also being finalised.
All this work is taking place at a time when government's finances are under great strain, and there is
very little room to increase spending or borrowing. This means that we need to spend our limited
resources more smartly, get rid of wastage and shift more resources to infrastructure investment.
On the first Monday morning of each month, the Deputy President and I meet with the leaders of business, labour and the community sector to review the implementation of measures agreed at last year's
Jobs Summit. Our continued focus is on job creation and how we can reduce the numbers of people who
It is clear that, as a country, we are taking firm action to grow the economy and create jobs. But we need
to do more to turn things around. We need to finalise a comprehensive growth strategy that takes all the
work being done to another level. I am certain that with the active involvement of all sectors of society,
this will be achieved.
South Africans are ready to rise to the challenge.
With best wishes,
The Gender-Based Violence National Command Centre can be reached on
0800 428 428.Last published 20 April 2020