Hits, misses & own goals: Analysts reflect on a year of SA dealing with COVID

This week marks the first anniversary of the lockdown, which saw the president shutting the country's borders, schools and most economic activity only permitting essential services to operate.

President Cyril Ramaphosa before addressing South Africans on Wednesday, 16 September 2020. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Analysts said it had been a year of hits and misses including a few economic own goals for President Cyril Ramaphosa as he marks 12 months of leading South Africa through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week marks the first anniversary of the lockdown, which saw the president shutting the country's borders, schools and most economic activity and only permitting essential services to operate.

At the time, following South Africa’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 and fears of a spike in infections, the president said this was the only path towards curbing the pandemic.

COVID-19: Our entrance into an age of pandemics

While most agree that no one could have anticipated the global phenomenon of COVID-19, some analysts say it merely presented a continued headache for South Africa’s number one citizen, who was already battling a sluggish economy, loss of public confidence and protracted political battles in the African National Congress.

Three Rivers Trading managing director and analyst Lebohang Pheko said Ramaphosa remained a conflict-averse and indecisive leader opting to continue consulting instead of just taking key decisions himself.

“Commissions to commissions on commissions and talks about talk and committees to commit and I think, other than that being a drain on the fiscus, some of these things just need an NEC meeting to pronounce.”

Meanwhile, University of the Free State lecturer and academic Ntando Sindane said Ramaphosa had affirmed his position as a promise maker who didn't see through his own commitments.

Sindane sighted promises to aid small businesses, to bolster health care and to cushion the unemployed as some of the president's failures.

“President Ramaphosa made a lot of promises that he doesn’t keep and loves pretending there are plans in place whereas there are no plans in place.”

The state of disaster has just been extended as fears mount over a third wave of the pandemic hitting the country as its vaccine programme struggles to take shape.

EFF, DA: WE’VE HELD GOVT ACCOUNTABLE

Two of the country's biggest opposition parties say they had stayed ahead of the curve, held government accountable and put South Africans first in the battle against COVID-19.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it played a consistent role over the past year in a bid to help government save both lives and livelihoods.

Its spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said the country's main opposition also never stopped holding Ramaphosa and his government accountable when it was needed.

“We played a critical role in committees and ensuring that we take government to court where things have been irrational.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said it spent the last year sacrificing its political mileage including salaries from its own public representatives, which were donated to the Solidarity Fund.

The party's Vuyani Pambo said the EFF even backed government in some instances in the interests of its people.

“We could have stood on the other side and went for the government, but we didn’t. We were supportive and made sure that our people got proper healthcare.”

But Pheko said opposition parties hadn't been helpful this past year.

The opposition said there was still a long road ahead of pushing government to ensure South Africans receive COVID-19 vaccines.

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