'We are guided by science': Ramaphosa on ending state of disaster

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter

President Cyril Ramaphosa gave his stance on hot topics such as the state of the ANC, the possibility of vaccine mandates and the end of lockdown whilst giving a rare press conference at Luthuli House on September 29 2021.

If it were up to President Cyril Ramaphosa, the state of disaster would be lifted today.

“I would like to see the state of disaster ending as soon as possible, but the science tells us otherwise and that is why we still have a state of disaster,” said Ramaphosa.

The president was addressing the media during an impromptu round table discussion at the ANC's headquarters, Luthuli House, in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.

In his capacity as the president of the ruling party, he took questions on various issues including when the government would be lifting the national state of disaster, put in place in March 2020.

“I wish it could end today. I really wish we could say the state of disaster has ended but we are guided by science and the science of the pandemic and the advisory committee advises us on all this, but there is fear and concern that there could be another wave.

“And what if tomorrow I announced that the national state of disaster ended, and then another wave cometh and then we have got to go back to another state of disaster again. So we have reduced and lightened the restrictions on the state of disaster to enable the economy to go back to where it was pre-Covid and, to a large extent, I think that is now beginning to happen.”

Ramaphosa said government had eased regulations on the movement of people and that was “something that we should take in our stride”. Asked about making vaccines compulsory, Ramaphosa revealed that discussions within government were taking place.

He said, like other countries, the government was discussing making vaccinations mandatory. “It is a debate, as we all know, that is happening throughout the country as well. It is global and happening in various parts of the world and so we are becoming part of this process and we are also mindful of what the constitution says about the rights that our people have.”

Ramaphosa said at the beginning of the pandemic, he told South Africans that no-one would be forced to get vaccinated.. “But at the same time we are finding that organisations such as companies, are saying that in order for us to perform at pre-Covid levels, in our company we now need to make it mandatory for people to be vaccinated. We are saying we understand that.”

However, he said the matter should be up for discussion. “The trade union movement is not responding positively to this compulsion and we have political parties in our country who are against it, so we have to navigate our way around this one very carefully because it also impacts on the constitutional rights of our people.

“We are discussing it in government and I would want to say that to the extent that people want to make it compulsory, let us engage first with our workers and customers.” He admitted there was still apathy, with the number of people volunteering to get vaccinated decreasing.

On the international front and touching on the issue of the UK red list, Ramaphosa said it was untrue that the Beta variant had continued to mutate in SA.

“The Beta variant has actually virtually disappeared in SA, and I say virtually because I think there is still just a little bit of it. To a large extent we only have Delta.”

Ramaphosa said this was the information he has been given. “They give consideration to this over two to three weeks, they put countries on their consideration list after two to three weeks, and then they do the change.

“I am due to speak to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and we have been getting our officials to speak both at a political and scientific level.” Ramaphosa said the matter was being “handled in process”.

He said there was no need for SA to retaliate. “The UK is an important trading partner to SA - one of the very important ones. So therefore, we do not feel the need to retaliate, we should rather engage,” said Ramaphosa.

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