The civil rights organisation AfriForum directed a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa today in which the organisation proposes measures to relax the lockdown. AfriForum says in its letter that the relaxation of the lockdown – announced by Ramaphosa on 23 April – is insufficient to either limit the damages caused by the lockdown or place the country on the road to recovery. AfriForum also released a report Break the gridlock today in which these measures are discussed in detail. The report also charts AfriForum’s priorities under these circumstances.
Ernst Roets, Head of Policy and Action at AfriForum, says that the state’s reaction to COVID‑19 should be viewed within the context of the governing party’s National Democratic Revolution (NDR). With the NDR, the governing party aims to vest more power in the state by continuously gaining more control over state functions and institutions of society.
“There is no doubt that government – with a degree of apparent moral justification – COVID-19 as an opportunity to make great strides in promoting the NDR,” Roets says. “This is something that the public must take note of and guard against.”
AfriForum proposes the following five steps in its letter to the President:
- A balanced solution
Deaths from COVID-19 must be viewed within the current reality of mortality in South Africa. A reaction to COVID-19 must therefore protect vulnerable people – especially older people – but should consider the fact that younger people are significantly less susceptible to the virus.
- Reactivating the economy
Active steps must be taken to abolish the limitations on people’s economic freedoms to once again allow people to work, generate an income, pay their employees, receive salaries and eventually enable them to provide food to their families and pay their taxes.
- Reintroducing civil rights
Government should already assure people that civil rights will be reinstated completely. Second, government should already have started with a relaxation process in this regard.
- Communities should be empowered to take care of their own interests
The most flagrant violation of communities’ freedom is probably the fact that they are prohibited from taking care of their own safety through neighbourhood watches. It is essential that communities enjoy the necessary freedom to take care of their own safety free from micromanagement by government.
- Bringing an end to state dependence
Rather than making people more dependent on state under these circumstances, they should be encouraged to work for an income. To facilitate this function, people should be allowed to enjoy more freedom rather than be micromanaged by the state.
AfriForum welcomes the United Nations’ message that South Africa has created a “toxic lockdown culture” with its “highly militarised” response to COVID-19. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, emphasised that emergency powers “should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power”. In light of this message, AfriForum’s letter to President Ramaphosa is of even greater importance and relevance, as it pertains to the relaxing of the lockdown.
Click here for the report.