Government will have blood on its hands if people die with reckless re-opening of economy - Malema

Julius Malema
Julius Malema
Image: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

The EFF has cautioned the government against the “premature” easing of coronavirus lockdown regulations for the benefit of the economy.

In the party’s Freedom Day address, EFF leader Julius Malema warned the government that it was putting the lives of the majority of those South Africans who had jobs at risk by prematurely opening the economy.

At least 1.5-million South Africans, according to the Sunday Times, will return to work on May 1 after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last week that lockdown regulations would be eased to level four, allowing more sectors to resume trade. South Africa has an estimated population of 60-million. 

Ramaphosa made the announcement as the number of coronavirus positive cases continued climbing as more testing was done.

According to Malema, the decision was influenced by “big businesses” who have not been able to make profits during the lockdown that has been in effect for almost five weeks.

“We were inspired and encouraged when the minister of health brought experts and professors to address the nation on scientific reading of the current period. We however do not understand the science behind the premature re-opening of the economy,” Malema said on Monday in a virtual address.

“The reality is that the majority of workers who will go back to work prematurely are black people and knowing the negligence of big businesses in South Africa, particularly the mines, our people will be at risk of contracting the virus.”

Malema said that should this lead to more people dying from contracting the virus in the workplace, the government must be held accountable for murder and attempted genocide.

“Cyril Ramaphosa and all the companies that are rushing into premature re-opening must know that they will have blood on their hands if our people die as a result of premature, reckless and senseless re-opening of the economy.

“Each and every company that re-opens during this period must be directly held to account for the health and safety of the workers and we as the EFF will make sure that no life is lost due to rushed and senseless re-opening of the economy,” Malema said.

In announcing the decision on Thursday, Ramaphosa said that while they understood and accepted that a national lockdown was the most effective way to contain the spread of the novel Covid-19, it was not sustainable.

He said that people have to eat and earn a living while companies needed to trade and produce goods as well generate revenue in order to retain employment.

Malema said that for every worker who dies after contracting the virus beyond May 1, the said company must pay a R5m fine towards the deceased's family.​

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