To quote a thousand people last night, that was a meeting that could have been an email.
In the same vein, South Africans had been calling for an address from President Ramaphosa, and that’s what they got, although it wasn’t an address that was jam-packed with details about the plan going forward.
Yes, we found out that there will be a drop to alert level 3 at the end of May, but the methodology behind why remains clear.
Us Capetonians will also be sweating bullets, too, because Ramaphosa made it clear that certain metros – where the vast majority of infections have occurred – could remain at alert level 4.
Ramaphosa also said that in the days to come, ministers will make further announcements about changes to alert level 4 restrictions, which will include allowing more activity in retail, e-commerce, and a reduction in restrictions related to outdoor exercise.
Hopefully, that means additional windows of exercise being opened up, so that we’re not all shoehorned into the 6AM to 9AM slot.
So, to really spell it out, here’s the crux:
Over to the ministers now, and those press conferences that often lead to more confusion than clarity.
Most of the reports about Ramaphosa’s address last night are less than flattering, with this from News24:
After seven weeks of lockdown living, South Africans expected President Cyril Ramaphosa to provide more clarity when he addressed the nation for the first time in 20 days on Wednesday…
Ramaphosa apologised to the nation for the government’s inconsistent and contradictory actions during the lockdown. This should be welcomed, but Ramaphosa should have used the opportunity to be bolder in his announcements about what happens next.
Ramaphosa’s leadership during the crisis has been exemplary. He needs to step up now, not allow the weak leaders around him to undermine our approach and address the very real, fact-based criticism of a continued lockdown after we had flattened the curve.
In another scathing article, again on News24, Pieter du Toit says that a “vague and uncertain Ramaphosa misses chance as lockdown is set to unravel”:
…the most serious oversight was he neglected to show the country that he understands the data which is fed into government structures from a range of sources; data that shows what the state of the spread of the pandemic in the country is…
He didn’t offer details about what the science is saying, or what the health professionals are seeing happening in the provinces. Ramaphosa didn’t elaborate on the rate of mortality, or contextualise it in relation to countries with a similar profile than ours.
He didn’t explain the difficulty in determining whether these trends and rates and projections are accurate, which numbers and statistics and data sets the government uses or how it has been refined and improved…
When he delivered his first two, three addresses to the country, Ramaphosa made it clear he was the president and he was in charge. But he has lately reverted to the collective, while regulations have increasingly become irrational and indefensible and with a cadre of belligerent ministers beating the war drums.
In short, it’s probably fair to say that many South Africans have grown weary with being left in the dark on certain matters.
President Ramaphosa really is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and part of his speech last night was aimed at stressing how we have bought our healthcare sector time to prepare.
He also pointed out how well we had done in comparison to the likes of the US and the UK, where the per capita death tolls and infection rates are far, far higher than ours.
Given the public shift in mindset of late, with regards to the national lockdown, you really could have written many of the social media reactions to his address before he opened his mouth.
That being said, perhaps it’s time Ramaphosa conducted an actual press conference, where he fields questions from the media, because there was too much left to the imagination last night.
Yes, there is work to be done behind the scenes, and we don’t need Ramaphosa fronting up to the public every evening, but the odd question and answer session may fill in some of the gaps that remain.
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