Dear President, focus on saving our livelihoods


7 June 2020

Looking at the South African map – one would not be amiss if one said the pain in the republic is palpable – the anguish of the thousands of compatriots who are losing their jobs is epic.

If one were to ask the map where it hurts? One would get a poignant “everywhere”.

This is the impact of the unfolding COVID-19 horror story, a reality visiting many households every day. It is the pain of deferred dreams, of broken souls, and a demoralised people.

This week, a good friend who plies his trade at PR agency Magna Carta lost his job, together with 14 others. These are young people who, just a few months ago, were making plans and saving for trips to faraway lands.

In one fell swoop, these lofty dreams have been reduced to rubble.

I have for the past few years written many articles on the bad shape of South Africa’s economy and most of these stories made it to the front page. This is because in our industry the worse the outlook, the more newsworthy the story.

COVID-19 has seen the National Treasury predict a jobs bloodbath. This too attracted massive media attention, and rightly so. But it is when you start putting the faces behind the grim numbers that the tragedy of it all becomes tangible.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration must stop the pain inflicting our land. The government and its bureaucrats must not be engaged in protracted battles over lockdown regulations or the constitutionality thereof  – this matters little to the embattled masses of of our land.

For them, whether we are in Alert Level 1 or 5 matters less as they need bold and visionary leadership to lift this economy out of the quagmire it has found itself in.

Former president Jacob Zuma left office still blaming the 2008 global financial crisis for the poor economic performance under his leadership. This is even when other emerging markets had staged a recovery.

The same latitude cannot be given to Ramaphosa. He must keep his eyes solely on drafting a workable and aggressive economic recovery plan.

Your people are hurting Mr President. They are not looking for a commander in chief, but a strategist in chief – a decisive leader who will and must ensure this economy grows, and grows for all. The R200-billion loan scheme to SMMEs guaranteed by taxpayers should be the first tool to arrest the job losses. This scheme must be felt across the country and not just be a nice-to-hear initiative.

Civil society, lobby groups and non-governmental organisations must be allowed to make inputs on how this scheme should work. Capital alone cannot save jobs – this scheme should have a more humane face and a jobs-first posture – that is all the surety banks ought to consider in this crisis.

No company that has been paying taxes and providing livelihoods to families should be allowed to fold. Step up Mr President, and heal our land.



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