Minister Zulu admits she never expected COVID-19's crippling impact on poor

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said that COVID-19 had exposed the deeper challenge the country was still facing to take better care of the poor.

FILE: Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu. Picture: @GovernmentZA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - It’s been three months since a state of disaster was declared in South Africa and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said that she never expected the economic impact of COVID-19 would be so crippling for the poor.

Zulu said it was an uncertain and worrisome time for government when the ambassador of China tried to prepare South Africa for what was coming and when reality sank in with the surge in numbers overseas, government had to act fast.

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster on Monday, 15 June, exactly three months ago when the country had 61 confirmed cases and zero deaths.

As of Sunday, 14 June, the country has over 70,000 cases and 1,480 deaths.

It's hard to believe that just three months ago, South Africans were still debating whether citizens should wear a mask in public. Now it's part of our daily outfit and seeing someone without a face covering will likely lead to a swift change in direction.

Driving through parts of Johannesburg, street vendors are selling masks, dipping into demand for the item as they too are desperate to make a living during the crippling pandemic.

Some are not able to reinvent themselves, like 30-year-old Miriam Moyo who lost her job as a domestic worker recently.

She is now forced to ask for donations on the street with her busy four-year-old son clinging to her skirt as she stands at a traffic light in Bryanston.

“I’ve got no plan or choice because I have no food and I have three kids and my husband is not working.”

Zulu said that COVID-19 had exposed the deeper challenge the country was still facing to take better care of the poor.

“We’ve been doing the best we can but it is not enough. This time, we were pushed into being creative and pushed into looking for resources and ensuring we work with the private sector.”

Government has made several relief packages available in the form of social grants while NGOs are stepping forward to contribute with feeding the hungry.

Many South African families are now left to the mercy of the Unemployment Insurance Fund as they try to navigate through filling out forms hoping this fund will help them survive.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.

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