EFF leader Julius Malema has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of putting profits before lives by easing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Ramaphosa gave oral replies to questions in a virtual sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday afternoon.
Malema asked Ramaphosa whether his decision to ease the lockdown, from alert Level 5 to 4 and then 3, within a short space of time, was informed by scientific evidence.
Ramaphosa responded: “Our response to the coronavirus pandemic has been informed by the advice of our scientists, made up of members of the advisory committee. There are 51 scientists of various diverse disciplines.
“It has also been underpinned by experiences of other countries and the guidance we have received from bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Africa Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention.
“Through the course of the pandemic, the committee assisted us. Government was guided by the views of scientists. It also considered the economic and social disruption that have been caused by the lockdown.”
Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday night that, under advanced Level 3, restrictions will be eased further, with cinemas, hairdressers, casinos and restaurants allowed to operate again.
In his question, Malema said the scientific-based recommendation by the WHO advised that the number of infections must be visibly declining before lockdowns should be eased.
He wanted to know how Ramaphosa came to the decision to ease restrictions, given the advice of the WHO.
Ramaphosa said: “The committee noted that some of the WHO criteria may not be proper for South Africa. Unlike several other countries, South Africa deliberately implemented a lockdown early in the progression of the disease in a strategy to delay transmission.
“We did this knowing that we will not be able to bring transmissions under control by the time we had to, to ease the lockdown. It would give us the time that we needed to strengthen our health system.”
But Malema did not accept Ramaphosa’s answers.
Malema said: “We are more than convinced that we are not following any scientific advice. You are following business to maximise profits all the time. You are sitting comfortably in your home and you tell children to go to school. Do you have any advice how many people are going to die of this pandemic?
“Or are we just going about as usual with no anticipating of what are the expected infections and deaths within a particular time. You are chasing only profits.”
You have a history of sacrificing life in Marikana for profits. We are experiencing it again, where the lives of children are placed at risk.
Julius Malema, EFF
Malema said science would, for instance, not recommend the sale of alcohol.
“There is no science that says, sell alcohol… it is safe to sell alcohol. Science will advise you that, once you sell alcohol, the trauma units will be full and then we will have to divide resources,” he said.