Not One Mention of The Coronavirus in SONA

Earlier this week, I met with a businessman in the South of Johannesburg who operates a manufacturing business. This business owner shared something with me that shocked me; there was not a single mention of the coronavirus in President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). 

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, the President’s silence on the potential dire consequences it has for our country, and for industry in particular, should be of concern to all of us. 

The business owner operates a manufacturing business that, like so many others, is dependent on raw materials from China. For the past month, these materials could not be brought into South Africa as a result of the outbreak, with no indication of when this may change. 

This business employs over 150 people, and the raw materials they have in stock will be exhausted within the next month. This represents another business, another group of employees, whose future now stands in jeopardy. Despite this, no information is forthcoming from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), who seem oblivious to the matter. 

Thousands of businesses in South Africa rely on Chinese exports and are facing a similar dilemma. Any analysis of the economic threat arising to our country from this global health crisis would reveal the potential impact is far greater than that attention it is receiving. 

Perhaps it is naïve of me to expect that the President, or at the very least the DTI, should be aware of the potential impact the pandemic will have?

Further to the economic impact, from a public health perspective it is bizarre that this impending global crisis received no attention from the President. When you consider how China is struggling to contain this virus – a country that managed to build a 1000 bed hospital in 6 days in response to it – one has to be concerned about the abilities of our struggling public healthcare facilitates to deal with a local outbreak.

With cases beginning to emerge in sub-Saharan Africa, and with our inability to manage our borders and ports of entry, it can surely only be a matter of time. 

We need decisive leadership in our country if we are going to manage this looming crisis. With a broad unemployment rate standing at just under 40%, and our public healthcare system under-resourced as it is, we cannot afford to take anything less than decisive action to avoid a potential catastrophe. 

Issued by:

Herman Mashaba
The People’s Dialogue

For media queries:

Michael Beaumont
078 224 7396