"It's time to move forward" - Premier Alan Winde

10 September 2020

Statement by Premier Alan Winde: Western Cape cabinet to meet on formal position for further reopening of the economy; calls on residents to stay safe, move forward.

"It's time to move forward"

This week, we received confirmation of what was already being felt by families and communities across our province and country: that we are facing a serious economic disaster that will result in hunger and growing levels of inequality in South Africa.  

If the daily Covid-19 stats were a marker of how we were doing in our fight against this health pandemic, then the GDP stats released this week, which showed a significant decline in economic activity, should be the clearest indication that we are now in the midst of a dangerous and, yes, deadly second pandemic of joblessness that will hit our most vulnerable communities the hardest.  

I agree with President Ramaphosa’s comments yesterday: this was not a shock, but the result of a prolonged and severe Lockdown and its associated economic restrictions – which at times lacked common sense. The reality is that if people cannot work, sell their goods, or offer their services, the economy cannot grow, and jobs will be lost.  

As I have said before, we supported the initial hard lockdown as a necessary step to buy South Africa time to prepare our health-system for the peak of infections that were to come. We did this in the Western Cape. We built field hospitals in record time, ensured that we had enough PPE and other medical stock like oxygen for our peak, and we launched a comprehensive, province-wide hotspot strategy to intervene and ensure behaviour change that would flatten the curve. 

But we also at the same time argued – even when facing serious opposition – that we should allow businesses to operate safely as well. We called for Level 3, when some wanted us to go to Level 5. We lobbied for the tourism, construction, e-commerce and wine sectors to open. We said that we can save lives now through interventions like our hotspot strategy, but we can do this in a way that allows economic activity and saves lives in the future too. 

It is also why we have now geared up our government to fight this second pandemic with equal determination. We have convened two Bosberaad sessions and identified the pillars of our recovery plan, which will focus on our government priorities of jobs, safety and dignity for the people of the Western Cape.  

But our success will be limited for as long as we continue with restrictions on economic activity. They need to come to an end. 

We must open up all sectors of the economy and allow for international travel in line with clear health guidelines and in acknowledgment of individual responsibility. We must treat our residents as responsible partners in our continued efforts to keep Covid-19 on the decline.  

Tomorrow, the Western Cape Government cabinet will discuss the further opening of the economy and adopt an official position to present to President Ramaphosa during his next round of consultations.  

“Stay Safe. Move Forward” 

All indicators confirm that the Western Cape has moved into the recovery phase of its pandemic. We need to ensure that we keep up all the behaviour changes we have learnt over the last 5 months. We must continue to wear a clean cloth mask, keep a 1.5 metre distance from others, wash our hands, and clean surfaces around us regularly. If we do this, we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.  

But we need to do something further at the same time: we need to move forward. We need to get out of our homes and support businesses so that we get our economy growing again.  We need to make sure we get the medical treatment we need for non-Covid health conditions which we have been delaying. We must make sure that our kids are immunised, and that they go to school to get the knowledge they need to succeed in life. We need to get back to work, to school and to our lives – and we need to do it safely. 

This has never been a zero-sum game. We don’t have to pick-and-choose between being safe and moving forward. We can do both, and we can get onto the right track again. Our message to the people of the Western Cape is to help us now like you did so enthusiastically before, so that together, we can move forward.