Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUNDAYTIMES
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUNDAYTIMES

The leaders of 14 political parties represented in parliament who met President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday have rallied behind the government’s campaign to fight the coronavirus and committed themselves to put their political differences aside in a united front.

Deputy President David Mabuza and health minister Zweli Mkhize were also present at the meeting. 

The political leaders endorsed the measures announced by Ramaphosa on Sunday to combat the spread of the disease. They agreed that extraordinary measures were necessary to deal with an extreme situation.

Ramaphosa said at a media briefing after the meeting that the political parties agreed that Covid-19  was posing “a real threat to the lives as well as the livelihood of the people as a whole” and that the fight against it must draw on all the resources of the nation.

He urged a limitation of alcohol consumption and said an announcement would be made soon about taverns and nightclubs.

The president stressed the importance of pulling together in a united front in the interests of the safety of people and to limit the spread of the disease. He also said there was no need for stockpiling as supply chains were intact.

Political parties also asked that companies in distress be assisted and stressed the importance of clear, continuous and transparent communication from the government, with Ramaphosa warning against the dangers of fake news and rumour-mongering.

The parties also agreed that they had a responsibility to mobilise and communicate with citizens, and that citizens should take responsibility for their actions. The political parties also agreed to limit political gatherings and to adopt a uniform message.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said the party supported the measures the government had put in place and had put forward suggestions of how to help to combat the spread of the disease. He appealed to big business and the private sector to join the fight against the virus and for people to stop panic buying.

Everyone needed to be calm and determined, he said.

EFF leader Julius Malema said his party fully supported the initiatives of the government and called on business and private hospitals not to maximise profit from the crisis. The EFF appealed to Ramaphosa to act decisively against anyone trying to take advantage of the situation to steal from the poor. Malema stressed the need for unity of purpose, and called on churches to abide by the measures announced.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald appreciated Ramaphosa’s interaction with political parties and that the government was not in a state of denial. He also appreciated that there was daily communication from the government on the progress of the disease.

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe appealed to churches to co-operate with the government.

The meeting with political leaders was part of a series of consultations Ramaphosa is undertaking with leaders across various sectors of society “to ensure that the national effort to combat and contain Covid-19 is inclusive and enjoys the support of all stakeholder groups”, the presidency said in a statement.

The president declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act on Sunday as the coronavirus outbreak took hold in SA.

On Tuesday Ramaphosa and Mabuza convened the first meeting of the national command council on Covid-19 which was established to lead the nation’s plan to contain the spread and mitigate the negative effect of the coronavirus.

“The council received an update from the national joint operational and intelligence structure on work being done in line with the directives outlined by the president to enhance border security and control, enforce public health containment measures and minimise local transmission.”

The structure is the national co-ordination structure of SA’s security and law enforcement operations.