President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to convene a virtual meeting with leaders of all political parties represented in parliament on Wednesday morning.
As the end of May draws nearer, President Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) are under pressure to finalise the district-based approach which will guide the easing of lockdown and the reopening of South Africa's economy. During his last national address, Ramaphosa revealed that most of South Africa would begin the transition to Level 3 lockdown before June.
Regions with heavy caseloads and flailing healthcare systems, would, however, be restricted from entering lower lockdown levels. This district-based approach, which, according to government, has been informed by expert epidemiological advice, has been met with criticism.
Ramaphosa rushes to finalise Level 3 move
Since addressing the nation and alluding to lower lockdown levels, President Ramaphosa has been kept busy with varied consultative processes. Last week, the president chaired a virtual meeting with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) which sought to balance economic potential against government's district-based approach.
NEDLAC noted that hot-spot regions, including Johannesburg and Cape Town, remained vital to the functioning of the economy. Concerns regarding further restrictions impacting financial hubs have complicated government's district-based model.
In addition to participating in the 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA), as African Union Chair, Ramaphosa recently met with religious leaders representing the South African Council of Churches (SACC).
Meeting with political parties
On Wednesday, Ramaphosa will address some of his biggest detractors, namely, Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and John Steenhuisen of the Democratic Alliance (DA). Steenhuisen has been especially critical of government's approach to the COVID-19 outbreak, calling for an immediate end to the lockdown which has decimated the country's economic prospects.
The EFF, while largely supportive of government's initial methodologies, has called for an urgent reopening of parliament to hold President Ramaphosa to account. The Red Berets have claimed that corruption, negligence and lawless expenditure of public resources have grown during lockdown and under Ramaphosa's watch.
Khusela Diko, Spokesperson to the President, announced that the meeting would take place on Wednesday, saying:
"President Cyril Ramaphosa is meeting this morning, Wednesday 20 May 2020, with leaders of political parties represented in Parliament to discuss the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic and matters related to the national lockdown.
This virtual meeting will be the third consultative meeting the President will be holding with leaders of political parties on this public health challenge."
Ramaphosa is expected to update the nation on government's progress towards implementing the district-based approach before the end of May.