This week we asked our diarists: If you could speak to President Ramaphosa and ask him to deal with one important issue regarding lockdown, what would it be and why? Respondents raised a number of issues they felt strongly about. Below, we have highlighted those that came through most strongly – education, employment, health, alcohol, and security – but diarists also raised a range of other issues, including the cigarette ban, public transport, protection for homeless people, and the early release of prisoners.
There was no single issue that united the diarists, but a significant number asked the President to re-evaluate alcohol sales, reflecting a dominant debate over alcohol sales in the nation as a whole. Many saw negative consequences of excess alcohol consumption in their family, their community, and society at large. Lindz who lives in an occupation in Seapoint felt ‘Alcohol must be banned during lockdown. There was a big change when alcohol was banned. Hospitals could deal with covid19 cases and no violence caused by drinking’. Diarists also feared that people would be less likely to adhere to lockdown restrictions after alcohol. Ash from Delft explained, ‘It’s no secret that the reason why covid-19 cases have increased [in the] past few days is due to this alcohol allowance that was pronounced. Most people when they are drunk they overdo it, they don’t think straight, which is enough for them to get the virus or even share it.’
‘I would ask him to close alcohol again because without alcohol everything was just fine but now it’s more chaotic out here. People are now uncontrollable because of this alcohol and in some homes there’s no more peace and abuse has taken place again because of this alcohol. People are roaming up and down the streets and fighting because of this alcohol. Children are becoming hungry again because their parents are spending their money on alcohol. There is no more family time in some homes because some partners spend their time with friends and are drinking alcohol. Car accidents have taken place during this small period of level 3 because people drink and drive. Crime is also increasing so I would advise the President to close the alcohol if he wants the numbers of this virus to slow down’. Nomaxabiso, Khayelitsha
‘I can Ask Him to close the Alcohol again because there is a Lot of Accident after opening am the Victim also my child is in Hospital now because of it’. Neziswa Shukushukuma
‘To stop the Sale of Alcohol cause its driving people crazy and now hospitals are getting influx of unnecessary injuries occurred cause of alcohol abuse rather that dealing with this pandemic…basically SA should abolish alcohol consumption period cause people abuse this substance’. Mpho, Seapoint(RTC)
A number of diarists focussed on the question of education and schooling. Most were concerned that the opening of schools would lead to the spread of COVID0-19. Luyolo from Khayelitsha, for example, explained that they ‘would tell Ramaphosa to convince the DBE to…close schools especially in the Western Cape because the learners are really being infected with the virus’. Patsie, also from Khayelitsha agrees that the President needs to reflect on ‘The issue of opening school especially primary school, our children are in high risk and not safe.’ Some, however, were keen for more children to be allowed back to school. Judy from Newlands asked, ‘Please Mr President can we find a way to get as many children as possible back to school!’
‘Mr. President, why have you allowed schools to reopen without ensuring workers’ safety, teachers, cleaners and security personnel in schools? I am not even referring to our children that you will get killed [by COVID 19], I know that it’s the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, why did you not give her proper guidance? Teachers are not yet ready because they are even going back to work having tested positive for COVID 19. The PPE is also not enough. Have you paid attention to the issue of social distancing?’ Zukiswa, Khayelitsha
‘Education…there are some schools having 100 in one class how is social distance work on that situation no water toilets schools vandalised’. Zama, Seapoint (RTC)
Unemployment and Work
Several of our diarists pointed to the economic hardship many South Africans have had to endure during, and indeed even before, lockdown. They asked the President to reflect on ways to reduce unemployment and increase opportunities to work. Fadwah from Hangberg argues, Ramaphosa needs to take a hard look at unemployment as the tourist industry are hard hit and many people are affected’. Kungo.M from Shukushukuma agrees that people need to be allowed to go to work, ‘Reason is people are hopeless and helpless they are starving, they are drowning in debt they have alot of responsibilities and expenses to cover. And another thing to allow people to look for jobs, I for one is looking for an internship if I get one that may chance my life.’
‘I would ask the President to decrease the level of unemployment, or rather to embark on a journey of creating new jobs or new possibilities…Because I truly believe that unemployment is a cause of other struggles. You cannot speak of unemployment and not speak about poverty…about class segregation and class inequalities…about racial segregation. So unemployment on its own is a mother of many struggles…Unemployment I believe also has a psychological impact on people’s lives. It is unemployment that results in crime. It is unemployment that results in violence. So the psychological part of this is that families are scattered apart as a result of unemployment.’ Papama, Khayelitsha
Relatedly, some diarists are concerned that promised state grants are not materialising. Nathi, from Imizamo Yethu would like to know why the ‘unemployed fund‘ payments are delayed, ‘while it is delaying people are hungry out there and people are been promised the money, but the money is not coming out the government‘. Audioman from Newlands would ask the President, ‘to make sure the aid promised to individuals [was delivered] (eg that R350 that most people didn’t get to date), and especially the aid to SME’s that was promised (again, the majority of applicants – millions – were rejected). Great promises not monitored let alone not delivered…It’s SORELY needed.‘ Nicole from Lanvender Hill wants those with disabilities to be prioritised when grants are paid: ‘So my question is, how do you as the president make sure inclusivity is key of persons with disabilities during the lock down, amidst controversy around queuing?
Diarists had a range of concerns regarding COVID-19, in particular: access to accurate information and education on the virus, measures to prevent the spread of the virus and treatment of those with COVID-19. Some such as Assie in Khayelitsha felt the ‘Western Cape and all the hotspots, people must go back to level 4 of 5 because the number of people getting COVID 19 is increasing day by day‘
‘Filter all the fake news thats going around with regards to Covid 19. This is due to the spreading of rumours and lies when it comes to news about lockdown. The are so many people stating so many things that we have not seen from the news’. Lwando, Imizamo Yethu
‘I would go down on my knees and ask him to please deploy more health workers to educate communities about the dangers of Covid-19. Community education would be a priority. Safety in terms of ensuring that every human being adhere to safe healthy measures’. China, Khayelitsha
‘He must build more hospital because some people that are tested positive they don’t have place to stay because they are leaving with families they can’t quarantine at home and hospital are full’. Nosiphiwo, Khayelitsha
Diarists, such as Esethu from Khayelitsha are concerned with: ‘the issue of police brutality and military use of excessive force. People have lost their lives and yet his ministers Bheki Cele and Nosivuyile Mampisa-Ngqakula have not yet come forward and acknowledge the issue and propose a solution…Ramaphosa and his ministers need to address these killings by security forces.’
‘I think the most important issue the President should address is how the law enforcement agencies (Police and SANDF members) conduct themselves towards citizens when trying to make sure everyone is following the rules of Lockdown’. Siphenathi, Khayelitsha
‘People are starting to develop fear than trust towards our law enforcement agencies. In order to address this issue we to have properly trained officers who know how to handle different disputes when they occur’. Zukiswa, Khayelitsha
If you are reading this, what would your key issue for President Ramaphosa be?
What are the best ways for the government to take forward the debates around alcohol sales?
How can the government respond to the challenges of misinformation and disinformation around COVID-19?