President Cyril Ramaphos faces another big week as he looks to formulate a plan to get the economy off life support amid an extended lockdown period.
The Sunday Times reports that the national command council will discuss industry proposals to ease some of the lockdown restrictions, including lobbies from the tobacco and alcohol sectors, and a call to allow fast food shops to reopen.
“The results of these discussions are expected to be taken to the cabinet later in the week, where a raft of proposals that include a comprehensive financial package geared at scaling up the production of essential goods will be tabled,” the Sunday paper said.
President Ramaphosa announced on Thursday evening, that South Africa’s lockdown will be extended by a further two weeks, to the end of April, as cases of infection continue to climb.
However, the Sunday Times reported that current projections also have Covid-19 peaking in mid-May, “meaning that strict regulations prohibiting movement will have to remain in place at least until then”.
“This could mean that social distancing and the wearing of masks would have to continue. Limits on the number of passengers in public transport vehicles would also continue.”
Unemployment Insurance Fund
The biggest intervention to alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, a R40 billion Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), has seen a big increase in applications.
The UIF gives short-term relief to workers when they become unemployed or are unable to work because of maternity, adoption leave, or illness.
The Sunday Times reported that approximately 50,000 applications have been processed with 20,000 having been paid out and the remaining payments to be made this week.
President Ramaphosa said that the fund has already paid out R356 million.
The president and his cabinet will over the next three months take a pay cut of 33% in their salaries.
The portion of the salaries, he said, will be donated to the Solidarity Fund. The premiers have also followed suit.
“We’re calling other public office bearers and executives of large companies to make a similar gesture to further increase the reach of this national effort,” he said.
The Solidarity Fund is an independently administered vehicle which aims to “flatten the curve” and lower infection rates and offer relief to those who need it the most.
Show of Solidarity
The Chief Justice and his deputy called on their fellow judicial officers and the broader South African public to show compassion and generosity to those in need during the country’s nationwide lockdown.
This call follows the president clarion call to all who can afford to, to donate a part of their salary in bid to alleviate the financial strain on millions of households and families.
“It is absolutely necessary for all South Africans who are able to do so to make whatever contribution they can to the alleviation of these hardships in any way they consider most effective.
“One way of doing so would be to identify and assist families in dire need of basic necessities or financial assistance without contravening the lockdown regulations,” said the Office of the Chief Justice.
Other practical steps suggested by the Office of the Chief Justice include sending money to identified families through electronic transfer such as eWallet, CashSend etc or, once again in strict compliance with the lockdown regulations, arranging to meet at a store with a representative of an identified family and buying basic necessities for them.
“Another way would be to pay money into the Solidarity Fund from one’s reserves or to commit a percentage of one’s salary to that fund or a combination of the above, as one’s personal circumstances may permit,” read the statement.