Press Releases

Press Releases

AFRICA DAY 2020

 

On Monday, 25 May 2020 we celebrate Africa Day. During this month, as a continent we acknowledge our achievements, as we take stock of the progress made towards realising the ideals of the AU Agenda 2063 on uniting the African continent. During this month we work towards strengthening Socio-Cultural Integration, Economic Integration and Political Integration.

As we commemorate Africa Day, we do so with the realisation that COVID-19 represents a threat to all nations on the continent and we must stand united in fighting the virus and ensuring the safety of all on the continent. With this in mind, Africa Day will be celebrated online this year. The President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa and the Chairperson of the African Union will on Monday be joined by fellow Africans who represent various continental stakeholders in a virtual Africa Day celebration event. The event will also be streamed live on all DIRCO social media platforms (see account names below). The link to the online live stream broadcast will be shared on Monday ahead of the event. #TheAfricaWeWant; #AfricaDay2020; #AfricaMonth2020

LIMITED REOPENING OF SA EMBASSY ON 20TH MAY: CONSULAR APPOINTMENTS NOW REQUIRED

The South African Embassy in line with the current Portuguese State of Disaster COVID-19 regulations, will resume only limited operations from its Offices on Wednesday, 20 May 2020.

Please note this will happen once precautionary measures, including proper professional sanitizing, has been done prior to re-opening and including a required  safety period.

Your understanding is much appreciated, while trusting you and your families are keeping well and staying safe as we keep fighting this pandemic. Take care.

Important notice:

- Staff Office hours will be staggered Monday to Friday from 08.30 to 13.30 (until further notice), with the rest of the time 'teleworking' from home;

- Consular hours will be reduced to 09:00 to 12:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays by prior appointment ONLY.

- To book an appointment please complete the consular appointment details below and email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; cc This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 213192200 (during above office hours). You will then receive a response and confirmation with an appointment date and time. If the appointment is for a family or group of people, please indicate the number of people and reason for visit  for each person.

- Please bring your own PPE, specifically masks, without which you will not be assisted for safety reasons;

- Customers who visit the Embassy without prior appointment will only be assisted in cases of duly proven urgency;

- Please refrain from calling the emergency line to make these consular appointments.

Thank you  and take care.


Embassy Management



SAE CONSULAR APPOINTMENT CARD (please copy, fill in and include in your email):


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Id number: _______________________________________________


Passport no. ______________________________________________


Contact no.: ______________________________________________


Email address: ____________________________________________


Proposed date of Appointment: _____/_____/2020


Alternate date of appointment: _____/_____/2020


Please tick as appropriate:


Passport Application/renewal:___        Certification of Life:____      Registering of Birth:___


Police Clearance:___ Emergency Travel Certificate (ETC):___     Commissioner of Oath: __


Certification:___             

 

Other:


Specify:___________________________________________________________________

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 11 MAY 2020

Dear Fellow South African,
 
Since the beginning of May, when we began the gradual easing of the nation-wide coronavirus lockdown, many people have started returning to work.
 
As part of the phased recovery of the economy, companies in certain specified industries have been able to resume part or all of their operations.
 
The national coronavirus alert level is now at 4, which means that extreme precautions remain in place to limit community transmission. Our goal is to steadily reduce the alert level by keeping the rate of infection down and getting our health system ready for the inevitable increase in cases.
 
As the lockdown is gradually eased, life will slowly return. But it will not be life as we knew it before.
 
While there is still much about the pandemic that is unknown, experts now agree that the virus will remain a threat to global public health for some time.
 
We must therefore be prepared to continue to live with the coronavirus among us for a year or even more.
 
We must be prepared for a new reality in which the fight against COVID-19 becomes part of our daily existence.
 
Our success in overcoming the coronavirus will ultimately be determined by the changes we make in our behaviour.
 
Even after lockdown – especially after lockdown – we will still need to observe social distancing, wear face masks, wash hands regularly, and avoid contact with other people. We will need to re-organise workplaces, schools, universities, colleges and other public places to limit transmission.
 
We will need to adapt to new ways of worshipping, socialising, exercising and meeting that minimise opportunities for the virus to spread.
 
This is a reality that countries across the world are having to confront. Even those countries that have started easing their lockdown restrictions are doing so tentatively and with extreme caution.
 
Like we have done, many countries are implementing extensive stimulus packages to strengthen their respective health care sectors, support ailing industries and workers and provide relief to vulnerable households.
 
Like us, they have had to heed calls for economic activity to resume. Like our citizens, their populations are restive and frustrated with the curtailment of personal freedoms.
 
At the same time, health experts around the globe are warning of a ‘second wave’ of infections as public life resumes. A number of countries including Germany, Iran and China have seen a rise in new infections since they relaxed certain restrictions.
 
We will be no different. We can and must expect infections to rise as more people return to work. We must accept the reality, prepare for it and adapt to it.
 
The next phase of our national response is as much about continuity as it is about change or innovation. We will step up our intensive screening, testing and case management programme. We will introduce new measures to make contact tracing more effective. We will need to implement mass sanitisation of workplaces, public transport and other spaces.
 
Since the nationwide lockdown began, most South Africans have observed the regulations that are in place for their own health and safety. They have made an informed decision to do so, understanding it is necessary for their own lives and for the lives of those around them.
 
As the restrictions on economic activity and daily life are eased, it is vital that all South Africans maintain that firm sense of personal responsibility. In all that we do, in every sphere of life, we must take care of our own health and the health of others.
 
Whether as individuals, employers, employees, government, civil society, trade unions or businesses, we will all continue to have a role to play in fighting the pandemic.
 
In the same way that we had to change our behaviour to prevent the spread of HIV, now we need to change our behaviour to stop the coronavirus.
 
Imposing a nation-wide lockdown gave our country a strategic advantage. It bought us valuable time to prepare our health system and put in place containment measures. This has slowed transmission and saved lives.
 
The transition to the next phase of the coronavirus response, that of recovery, will be more difficult than the present one. The risk of infection outbreaks will increase. The demands on our clinics and hospitals and medical personnel will grow.
 
That is why easing the lockdown restrictions must not result in careless behaviour by individuals or reckless practices by businesses keen to resume activity at the cost of human health.
 
The coronavirus crisis will pass. But for as long as it remains a threat to the lives of our people, we must remain vigilant, diligent and responsible.
 
Now, more than ever, it is upon the conduct of each that depends the fate of all.
 
With best wishes,

AMBASSADOR MJ GAORETELELWE: COVID MESSAGE FROM LISBON, PORTUGAL - 1 MAY 2020

 

I am Mmamokwena Gaoretelelwe, the South African Ambassador in Lisbon, Portugal. This week saw a very different commemoration of our Freedom Day on 27 April, which also falls in the same week as Portugal’s Freedom Day on 25 April. No big celebrations were held, but we can never forget our struggle for freedom and remembered the day in solidarity with fellow South Africans.

However, these historic days come at a time when freedom is taking on a new meaning and requiring us to make sacrifices as we together battle this worldwide invisible enemy, COVID-19. Like in South Africa, Portugal is under lockdown with freedom of movement limited for over 40 days now. I therefore remind myself every day to value our general freedom, while understanding the current measures to save human lives and limit the impact of this pandemic.

In Portugal the first case was reported on 2 March in the northern business hub of Porto, while the first death was reported on 16 March. On 18 March the Portuguese Government announced a State of Emergency, which was followed by lockdown measures including for business, apart from those providing essential services. While Portugal is the 18th most infected in the world, it has been credited with early lockdown measures which have kept its numbers relatively low for example compared to neighbouring Spain, which has recorded 10 times more cases.

Portugal currently has recorded 23,864 cases with 903 deaths. Although the numbers have stabilised, Portugal last week extended the State of Emergency for a second time until 2 May. After the announcement of the State of Emergency and lockdown, the Embassy followed suit and our offices closed from 23 March, with essential staff working from home. But we have remained contactable 24 hours even through Easter.

We are pleased that over the last 6 weeks, we have been able to assist around 80 stranded South Africans, including facilitating the repatriation of many of them to get home. This is a time-bound process as they needed to fly to Frankfurt from Lisbon and to then be connected onto a flight back to South Africa, all with authority and approval from the various. We remain available to assist and support those who remain stranded here.  We think of those who have lost loved ones and those fighting COVID-19 in person, while saluting those in the front lines of this pandemic in SA, here in Portugal and across the globe.

During these testing times our Embassy colleagues have been reaching out to each other in support, talking almost daily by phone and creating a What’s App group to keep the spirits up, and encourage each other to stay positive and safe.

I must take this opportunity to also thank DIRCO Management but especially our Consular Colleagues for their dedicated support during these difficult times in have already brought over 3000 South Africans home. Last but not least we salute and pray for our President and Government especially their important leadership in our struggle for freedom from this pandemic.

Let us continue this fight. Remember that we are in this together and the only way we will be able to beat the Coronavirus pandemic is by adhering to the lockdown regulations. Save South Africa. Stay Home.

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 4 MAY 2020

President Ramaphosa's  weekly message: "Over the past five weeks, most South Africans have adhered to the lock down regulations and, as a result, we have slowed the spread of the virus. But this does not mean that the danger has passed. We have not nearly reached the peak of infections in South Africa. All the scientific models show that the infection rate will continue to rise at a much faster rate in the next few months."

Dear Fellow South African,

The entire world is in the unrelenting grip of the coronavirus pandemic, whose spread has been rapid. A vaccine has yet to be found. Across the world, over 3.4 million people are known to be infected and more than 240,000 have died. These are indeed desperate times.
 
When the national state of disaster was declared six weeks ago, South Africa only had 61 confirmed coronavirus infections. Despite the relatively low number, expert opinion and international experience indicated that infections would rise exponentially. I said that urgent and drastic measures would need to be taken.

Those measures – which included a nation-wide lockdown and the closure of our borders – have proved to be effective in delaying the spread of the disease.

This has been possible because most South Africans have adhered to the lockdown provisions, practising social distancing and wearing face masks. I applaud you for this and for all the other sacrifices you have made.

At this stage in the progress of the pandemic, other countries had far more infections than we do. As of now – which is 46 days since we recorded our 100th coronavirus case – we have 6,783 confirmed cases. Italy, which has a similar size population to ours, had more than 140,000 cases and the United States had around 700,000 confirmed cases at the 46-day mark.

But this does not mean that the danger has passed. We have not nearly reached the peak of infections in South Africa. All the scientific models show that the infection rate will continue to rise at a much faster rate in the next few months.

However, the speed with which the virus spreads and the number of people who are ultimately infected will be determined by what we do now. That is why the easing of the lockdown needs to be gradual and cautious. It is for this reason that many regulations need to remain in place and why it is absolutely essential that people observe them. I know how difficult this is and I understand the concern that many of our compatriots have about how these regulations are interfering and limiting their rights. But all this is necessary. Our overriding objective is the preservation of life.

Social distancing and proper hygiene are still our best and only defences in this struggle. This is what informs the regulations we have put in place for level 4 of our response. Our considerations are based on empirical evidence, scientific and economic data and international best practice.

In the 1995 judgment of the Constitutional Court that outlawed capital punishment, Justice Arthur Chaskalson wrote: “The rights to life and dignity are the most important of all human rights and the source of all other personal rights. By committing ourselves to a society founded on the recognition of human rights we are required to value these two rights above all others.”

The regulations we have put in place are founded on that commitment to life and dignity, and which justify – in these extreme circumstances – temporary restrictions on other rights, like freedom of movement and association.

In doing this, South Africa is not unlike many other countries.

An estimated one-fifth of the world’s population is under quarantine or nationwide lockdown, with this number growing rapidly in response to rising infections. This includes countries with substantially larger populations than ours, like India with its 1.5 billion people.

Dozens of countries have imposed curfews such as the one that is now in place here. Limitations on movement are in place in a number of countries. In the UK and the French capital, Paris, public exercise is limited to certain hours and within a certain distance of one’s home.
 
Containment and prevention measures similar to ours are in place in a number of countries. For example, alcohol sales during lockdown have been either restricted or banned in a number of territories and by local governments, including parts of Mexico, Hong Kong and Greenland, which last month imposed a ban on alcohol sales during lockdown to limit infection but also ‘to curb violence against women and children.’

There has been much public comment on government’s decision to extend the prohibition on the sale of tobacco products into level 4. A decision like this is bound to be controversial, but it is wrong to suggest that there are Ministers or a President doing and saying whatever they want on this matter.

On 23 April, I announced that cigarette sales would be permitted during level 4. This was based on the view of the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), and which was contained in the draft framework that was published for consulation.

After careful consideration and discussion, the NCCC reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by Cabinet and announced by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on 29 April extended the prohibition.

This was a collective decision and the public statements by both myself and the Minister were done on behalf of, and mandated by, the collective I lead.

Every regulation we have put in place has been carefully considered. Along the way there has been consultation with medical experts, various constituencies and different industries. We have been guided by international bodies and the experience of other countries.
 
The reality is that we are sailing in uncharted waters. There is still a great deal about the epidemiology of the virus that is unknown. It is better to err on the side of caution than to pay the devastating price of a lapse in judgment in future.

While there are differing views on some of the decisions we have taken – and in some instances these have polarised opinion – government is making every effort to act in a way that advances the rights to life and dignity of all our people.

Listening to our people and their concerns during this period has been one of the distinguishing features of how we as government have managed this pandemic. We continue to listen to the concerns of our people and are prepared to make adjustments that balance people’s concerns about the challenges they face with the need to save lives.
 
At this difficult time, our collective energies must be focused on ensuring that health and life is preserved, that the delivery of food, water, health care, social security and social support is not disrupted.

Under these extraordinary circumstances, as government, as individuals and as society we will at times make mistakes. When these occur, we will correct them. But we must carry on, losing neither our nerve nor our resolve.

The situation in which we find ourselves demands courage and patience. It requires goodwill and trust between you, the citizen, and your government, and between each other.

Over the past five weeks, most South Africans have adhered to the lockdown regulations and, as a result, we have slowed the spread of the virus.

It is my plea that we continue in this way and that we remain united in confronting this grave threat to the life and dignity of our people.

With best wishes,

President Cyril Ramaphosa

EXTENSION OF EMBASSY CLOSURE FROM 4 MAY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

The Embassy will remain closed from 4 May until further notice in line with the Portuguese State of Calamity plus SA's State of Disaster requiring to work from home where functions allow. For SAE consular and emergency services, including for stranded South Africans, the contact number is +351 964 151 989. The DIRCO COVID-19 Command Center in SA can also be contacted on +27 12 351 1754/56 or em: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

23 APRIL 2020 - STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON SOUTH AFRICA’S RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, UNION BUILDINGS, TSHWANE

My Fellow South Africans,

It has been exactly seven weeks since the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in our country.

Since then, all our lives have changed in fundamental ways.

As a nation we have been forced to take aggressive action against an invisible enemy that threatened our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

We have been forced to adapt to a new way of living, in a short space of time.

As we enter the fifth week of an unprecedented nation-wide lockdown – and as we look to the future – we should remember why we are here.

The novel coronavirus, which was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, has spread rapidly across the world.

To date, over 2.6 million confirmed cases have been reported worldwide.

The actual number of people infected is likely to be far higher.

The coronavirus causes the disease known as COVID-19, a respiratory illness for which humans currently have no immunity and for which there is no known cure.

The coronavirus is passed from person to person in small droplets from the nose and mouth that can be transmitted by direct contact, on surfaces we touch or when an infected person coughs or sneezes when they are close to another person.

Most infected people exhibit only mild symptoms; some do not show any symptoms at all.

But there are people who develop severe symptoms and require hospitalisation.

These are usually older people and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.

For some of these people, COVID-19 is fatal.

Across the world, more than 185,000 people have succumbed to the disease.

Here in South Africa, at least 75 people have lost their lives.

Because the coronavirus can spread so rapidly through a population, it can overwhelm even the best-resourced health system within a matter of weeks.

This is what has occurred in many countries across the world, and it is precisely what we, as South Africa, have gone to great lengths to prevent.

Very few health systems across the world – if any – are prepared for a sudden and exponential increase in people requiring treatment for a severe respiratory illness.

As a result, if the virus spreads too quickly, there are not enough hospital beds, intensive care units, ventilators, personal protection equipment or medicine for everyone who needs them.

To make matters worse, people who are suffering from other conditions or need emergency procedures are unable to get the care they need.

And in such circumstances, many lives that could have been saved, are lost.

I am reiterating these basic facts – which by now are probably familiar to many of you – because they explain the actions we have taken to date and they inform the measures I am announcing this evening.

From the moment we declared the coronavirus pandemic to be a national disaster on Sunday 15 March, our objective was to delay the spread of the virus.

We have sought to avoid a massive surge in infections and an uncontrollable increase in the number of people needing medical care.

Our approach has been based on the principles of social distancing, restriction of movement and stringent basic hygiene practices.

By delaying the spread of the virus, we have had time to prepare our health facilities and mobilise some of the essential medical supplies needed to meet the inevitable increase in infections.

And it is in so doing, that we hope to save tens of thousands of lives.

There is clear evidence that the lockdown has been working.

Together with the other measures we have taken – such as closing our borders – and the changes in behaviour that each of us has made, the lockdown has slowed the progression of the pandemic in the country.

The World Health Organization has commended South Africa for acting swiftly and for following scientific advice to delay the spread of the virus.

Yet, while a nation-wide lockdown is probably the most effective means to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it cannot be sustained indefinitely.

Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living. Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment.

We have accordingly decided that beyond Thursday 30 April, we should begin a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity.

We will implement a risk adjusted strategy through which we take a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions.

We have decided on this approach because there is still much that is unknown about the rate and manner of the spread of the virus within our population.

The action we take now must therefore be measured and incremental.

This approach is guided by the advice from scientists who have advised that an abrupt and uncontrolled lifting of restrictions could cause a massive resurgence in infections.

We cannot take action today that we will deeply regret tomorrow.

We must avoid a rushed re-opening that could risk a spread, which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown, as has happened in other countries.

We have to balance the need to resume economic activity with the imperative to contain the virus and save lives.

To achieve this, we have developed an approach that determines the measures we should have in place based on the direction of the pandemic in our country.

As part of this approach, there will be five coronavirus levels:

Level 5 means that drastic measures are required to contain the spread of the virus to save lives.

Level 4 means that some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.

Level 3 involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities, to address a high risk of transmission.

Level 2 involves the further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

Level 1 means that most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times.

To ensure that our response to the pandemic can be as precise and targeted as possible, there will be a national level and separate levels for each province, district and metro in the country.

We are currently at Level 5, which requires a full national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.

This is the highest level of lockdown and was imposed when drastic action was necessary to curb transmission.

The National Coronavirus Command Council will determine the alert level based on an assessment of the infection rate and the capacity of our health system to provide care to those who need it.

We have undertaken a detailed exercise to classify the different parts of the economy according to the risk of transmission in that sector, the expected impact of the lockdown, the economic contribution of the sector and the effect on livelihoods.

The relevant Ministers will provide a detailed briefing on the classification of industries and how each is affected at each level.

We will give all industry bodies an opportunity to consider these details and, should they wish, to make submissions before new regulations are gazetted.

The National Coronavirus Command Council met earlier today and determined that the national coronavirus alert level will be lowered from level 5 to level 4 with effect from Friday the 1st of May.

This means that some activity will be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions to limit community transmission and outbreaks

Some businesses will be allowed to resume operations under specific conditions.

Every business will have to adhere to detailed health and safety protocols to protect their employees, and workplace plans will be put in place to enable disease surveillance and prevent the spread of infection.

All businesses that are permitted to resume operations will be required to do so in a phased manner, first preparing the workplace for a return to operations, followed by the return of the workforce in batches of no more than one-third.

In some cases, a sector will not be able to return to full production during Level 4 while the risk of infection remains high.

These will be spelt out next week following a final round of consultations.

Businesses will be encouraged to adopt a work-from-home strategy where possible.

All staff who can work remotely must be allowed to do so.

The relevant Ministers will provide details on the process for the phased re-opening of schools and other educational institutions.

As we gradually ease the restrictions, it is necessary that many of the measures to contain the spread of the virus remain in place.

When the country moves to level 4 on 1 May:

Our borders will remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.

No travel will be allowed between provinces, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances such as funerals.

Public transport will continue to operate, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements, including that all passengers must wear a face mask.

The public is encouraged to stay at home, other than for essential personal movement, doing essential work and work in sectors that are under controlled opening. People can exercise under strict public health conditions.

All gatherings, apart from funerals and for work, will remain prohibited.

Those who are elderly, and those with underlying conditions, must remain at home and take additional precautions to isolate themselves.

The sale of cigarettes will be permitted.

The range of goods that may be sold will be extended to incorporate certain additional categories. These will be detailed by the relevant Ministers.

It is important to note that several restrictions will remain in place regardless of the level of alert for as long as the risk of transmission is present:

Bars and shebeens will remain closed.

Conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres, and concerts will remain closed.

Concerts, sporting events, and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue.

The coronavirus is spread by contact between people.

If people do not travel, the virus does not travel.

We know, for example, that just one funeral in Port St Johns and one religious gathering in Mangaung contributed to a spate of infections in their respective provinces.

From the evidence we have, we know that 75 percent of confirmed coronavirus cases are found in just six metro municipalities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, Buffalo City, EThekwini and Mangaung.

It is therefore essential that we do everything in our means to restrict the movement of people and – although it runs counter to our very nature – to reduce the contact that each of us has with each other.

Ultimately, it is our own actions, as individuals, that will determine how quickly the virus spreads.

If we all adhere to instructions and follow public health guidelines, we will keep the virus under control and will not need to reinstate the most drastic restrictions.

We can prevent the spread of coronavirus by doing a few simple things.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol based sanitiser.

Keep a distance of more than one metre between yourself and the next person, especially those who are coughing and sneezing.

Try not to touch your mouth, nose and eyes because your hands may have touched the coronavirus on surfaces.

When you cough or sneeze cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue, and dispose of the tissue right away.

As we begin the easing of lockdown restrictions from the beginning of May, we are calling on all South Africans to wear a face mask whenever you leave home.

Our clothing and textile industry – including many small businesses – are gearing up to produce these masks on a mass scale.

The extraordinary measures that we have put in place to combat the coronavirus pandemic have been matched by the extraordinary contributions of many South Africans.

We pay tribute to them, the nurses, the doctors, the scientists and the community screening field workers who are leading our public health response.

We are committed to ensuring that they have all the resources they need – including adequate personal protection equipment and other recognition – to undertake the work that is being asked of them.

As we slowly ease the lockdown restrictions, we are substantially and rapidly increasing our public health response.

We have already seen a huge increase in community screening and testing.

Guided by advice from the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, we have joined other African countries in placing mass screening and testing at the centre of the next phase of our response.

Earlier in the week, I announced an additional allocation of R20 billion to our health response to ensure that we have the beds, medicine, equipment and personnel required when the country experiences the peak of infections.

This evening, I also want to pay tribute to those who are providing essential services and goods – the truck, taxi, bus and train drivers; the workers on farms, in stores, at power stations, at water plants, at petrol stations, in banks and in call centres; the law enforcement officials and security personnel.

It is thanks to your efforts that we have been able to make such valuable progress in combating this pandemic.

As part of expanding this effort, I have employed over 70,000 defence force personnel to assist with various parts of our coronavirus response.

Until now, those defence force members that have been deployed have supported the South African Police Service in their responsibilities.

They will continue to do so, but they will also be providing assistance in other essential areas, such as the provision of water supply, infrastructure maintenance and health services.

This is a crucial moment in our struggle against the coronavirus.

It is a time for caution.

It is a time to act responsibly.

It is a time for patience.

There is no person who doesn’t want to return to work.

There is no company that does not want to re-open.

There is no student who does not want to return to their studies.

Yet, we are all called upon, at some time in our lives, to make great sacrifices for our own future and for the future of others.

There are times when we must endure hardship and difficulty, so that we can enjoy freedom and prosperity into the future.

During the past five weeks, we have demonstrated to the entire world what a nation can achieve with courage, determination and solidarity.

We must not give up now.

I am asking you to stay strong.

I am asking you to remain united.

Stay home, stay safe.

Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.

May God bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.


ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

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STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON FURTHER ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL MEASURES IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 EPIDEMIC

21 April 2020

My Fellow South Africans,

It is 25 days since South Africa began a nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

It has demanded of you great fortitude and endurance.

It has caused you much suffering and required much sacrifice.

Once again, I salute you and I thank you.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted your lives and damaged our economy.

Its severity will continue to take a heavy toll in the weeks and months to come.

The pandemic has resulted in the sudden loss of income for businesses and individuals alike, deepening poverty and increasing hunger.

The urgent and dramatic measures we have taken to delay the spread of the virus have been absolutely necessary.

They have given us the space to better respond to the inevitable rise in infections and to thereby save tens of thousands of lives.

While the nation-wide lockdown is having a devastating effect on our economy, it is nothing compared to the catastrophic human, social and economic cost if the coronavirus could spread among our people unchecked.

Medical scientists and our doctors inform us that we are still in the early stages of this pandemic. 

Without proven therapeutic medicines or a vaccine, we can expect this to continue as a problem for the foreseeable future.

Our foremost priority now is to intensify the health interventions needed to contain and delay the spread of the disease and to save lives.

To date, the coronavirus has taken the lives of at least 58 people in our country.

This is a loss that we all mourn, for we know the pain and the anguish of their loved ones.

From the more than 126,000 tests conducted, 3,465 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been identified.

More than 2 million people have been screened in communities across the country and, of these, over 15,000 have been referred for testing.

Alongside this unprecedented public health effort are the measures we are taking to protect livelihoods, to stave off hunger and destitution and to set our economy on a path of recovery.

This evening, I wish to address you on our economic and social response to this global health emergency.

The pandemic requires an economic response that is equal to the scale of the disruption it is causing.

Our economic response can be divided into three phases.

The first phase began in mid-March when we declared the coronavirus pandemic as a national disaster.

This included a broad range of measures to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic on businesses, on communities and on individuals.

The measures included tax relief, the release of disaster relief funds, emergency procurement, wage support through the UIF and funding to small businesses.

We are now embarking on the second phase of our economic response to stabilise the economy, address the extreme decline in supply and demand and protect jobs.

As part of this phase, we are announcing this evening a massive social relief and economic support package of R500 billion, which amounts to around 10% of GDP.

The third phase is the economic strategy we will implement to drive the recovery of our economy as the country emerges from this pandemic.

Central to the economic recovery strategy will be the measures we will embark upon to stimulate demand and supply through interventions such as a substantial infrastructure build programme, the speedy implementation of economic reforms, the transformation of our economy and embarking on all other steps that will ignite inclusive economic growth.

We will outline this in coming days.

Over the past few days, we have been in consultations with various stakeholders.

We have met with business, labour and the community constituency in NEDLAC.

We have met with Premiers, MECs and Metro Mayors and with the members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.

Following these meetings, Cabinet considered various proposals and finalised the social relief and economic support package that stands at the centre of the second phase of our economic response.

This involves:

Firstly, an extraordinary health budget to respond to coronavirus,

Secondly, the relief of hunger and social distress,

Thirdly, support for companies and workers,

Fourthly, the phased re-opening of the economy.

The impact of the coronavirus requires an extraordinary coronavirus budget – of  around R500 billion – to direct resources towards fighting the pandemic.

This will include the reprioritisation of around R130 billion within the current budget.

The rest of the funds will be raised from both local sources, such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and from global partners and international finance institutions. 

To date, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, BRICS New Development Bank and the African Development Bank have been approached and are working with the National Treasury on various funding transactions.

Some of these institutions have created financing packages that are aimed at assisting countries that are having to address the coronavirus crisis like us.

This funding will be used, in the first instance, to fund the health response to coronavirus. 

An amount of R20 billion will be directed to addressing our efforts to address the pandemic.

If we are to successfully manage the anticipated surge in cases and ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it, we must provide for additional expenditure on personal protective equipment for health workers, community screening, an increase in testing capacity, additional beds in field hospitals, ventilators, medicine and staffing.

The nation-wide lockdown has had a negative impact on the revenue of municipalities at a time when the demands on them are increasing.

Additional funding of R20 billion will therefore be made available to municipalities for the provision of emergency water supply, increased sanitisation of public transport and facilities, and providing food and shelter for the homeless.

Details will be announced in the adjustment budget tabled by the Minister of Finance.

Another significant area that requires massive additional expenditure is the relief of hunger and social distress in our communities across the country.

While we have put in place measures to protect the wages of workers in the formal economy and have extended support to small, medium and micro-sized businesses, millions of South Africans in the informal economy and those without employment are struggling to survive.

Poverty and food insecurity have deepened dramatically in the course of just a few weeks.

To reach the most vulnerable families in the country, we have decided on a temporary 6-month Coronavirus grant.

We will direct R50 billion towards relieving the plight of those who are most desperately affected by the coronavirus.

This means that child support grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R300 in May and from June to October they will receive an additional R500 each month.

All other grant beneficiaries will receive an extra R250 per month for the next six months.

In addition, a special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 a month for the next 6 months will be paid to individuals who are currently unemployed and do not receive any other form of social grant or UIF payment.

The Department of Social Development will issue the requirements needed to access and apply for this funding.

We have recognised that the food distribution capacity of government is not adequate to meet the huge need that has arisen since the start of the epidemic.

The South African Social Security Agency – SASSA – will within days implement a technology-based solution to roll out food assistance at scale through vouchers and cash transfers to ensure that help reaches those who need it faster and more efficiently.

In addition, to fill the immediate need, the Department of Social Development has partnered with the Solidarity Fund, NGOs and community-based organisations to distribute 250,000 food parcels across the country over the next two weeks.

We are deeply disturbed by reports of unscrupulous people abusing the distribution of food and other assistance for corrupt ends.

We will not hesitate to ensure that those involved in such activities face the full might of the law.

While there are several interventions that already exist within government to deal with the extremely high unemployment such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the community works programme, these are not enough.

The coronavirus crisis will lead to many people losing their jobs.

An additional R100 billion will be set aside for protection of jobs and to create jobs.

Since the declaration of a state of national disaster over a month ago, government has put in place a range of measures to support workers’ wages and assist companies in distress.

By the end of today, the UIF’s special COVID-19 benefit has paid out R1.6-billion, assisting over 37,000 companies and 600,00 workers.

R40 billion has been set aside for income support payments for workers whose employers are not able to pay their wages.

We continue to provide assistance – in the form of loans, grants and debt restructuring – to SMMEs, spaza shop owners and other informal businesses.

The value of this assistance to date is over R100 million.

An additional amount of R2 billion will be made available to assist SMEs and spaza shop owners and other small businesses.

The IDC facility to support companies to procure or manufacture personal protective equipment has been utilised in the past few weeks, with finance of R162 million approved to date.  

Other forms of support have been extended to artists, athletes and technical personnel, as well as to waste pickers and public works participants in the environment sector.

While these measures are providing obvious relief to many companies and workers, it is clear that there is a far greater need across the entire economy.

We will therefore be introducing a R200 billion loan guarantee scheme in partnership with the major banks, the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank.

This will assist enterprises with operational costs, such as salaries, rent and the payment of suppliers.

In the initial phase, companies with a turnover of less than R300 million a year will be eligible. 

It is expected that the scheme will support over 700,000 firms and more than 3 million employees through this difficult period.

A number of the banks are ready to roll out the product before the end of the month.

Government is also working on additional support measures for vulnerable and affected sectors like the taxi industry.

In addition to existing tax relief measures, we will also be introducing a 4-month holiday for companies’ skills development levy contributions, fast-tracking VAT refunds and a 3-month delay for filing and first payment of carbon tax.

To assist a greater number of businesses, the previous turnover threshold for tax deferrals is being increased to R100 million a year, and the proportion of PAYE payment that can be deferred will be increased to 35 percent. 

Businesses with a turnover of more than R100 million a year can apply directly to SARS on a case-by-case basis for deferrals of their tax payments.

No penalties for late payments will be applicable if they can show they have been materially negatively impacted in this period.

Taxpayers who donate to the Solidarity Fund will be able to claim up to an additional 10 percent as a deduction from their taxable income.

In total these tax measures should provide at least R70 billion in cash flow relief or direct payments to businesses and individuals.

The Minister of Finance will provide further details on the above and other tax-related announcements.

In the implementation of all these measures, we are determined to ensure that women, youth and persons with disability received particular attention and support.

The South African Reserve Bank has also made an important contribution to support the real economy.

In line with its Constitutional mandate, it has cut the repo rate by 200 basis point, in effect unlocking at least R80 billion in the real economy, and taking other steps to provide additional liquidity to the financial system.

Several commercial banks and insurance companies have also assisted the economic relief effort by, among other things, delaying or reducing instalment payments, providing debt relief, and waiving bank fees for grant beneficiaries.

The fourth area on which Cabinet has resolved is the phased re-opening of the economy.

We will follow a risk-adjusted approach to the return of economic activity, balancing the continued need to limit the spread of the coronavirus with the need to get people back to work.

As I have said previously, if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease.

We will therefore follow a phased approach, guided by the best available scientific evidence, to gradually lift the restrictions on economic activity.

As we do so, we remain firm in our resolve to contain the transmission of the virus.

We will therefore need to act with agility and flexibility in the weeks and months ahead, and respond to the situation as it develops.

On Thursday, I will address the nation on the measures that will be taken beyond the nation-wide lockdown to re-open the economy.

This crisis will not last forever, and the day will come when these measures are no longer needed. 

Until then, however, we must ensure that all of our people receive adequate support.

The scale of this emergency relief programme is historic.

It demonstrates that we will not spare any effort, or any expense, in our determination to support our people and protect them from harm.

We will – and we must – do whatever it takes to recover from this human, social and economic crisis.

Our country and the world we live in will never be the same.

We are resolved not merely to return our economy to where it was before the coronavirus, but to forge a new economy in a new global reality.

Our economic strategy going forward will require a new social compact among all role players – business, labour, community and government – to restructure the economy and achieve inclusive growth.

Building on the cooperation that is being forged among all social partners during this crisis, we will accelerate the structural reforms required to reduce the cost of doing business, to promote localisation and industrialisation, to overhaul state owned enterprises and to strengthen the informal sector.

We will forge a compact for radical economic transformation that ensures that advances the economic position of women, youth and persons with disabilities, and that makes our cities, towns, villages and rural areas vibrant centres of economic activity.

Our new economy must be founded on fairness, empowerment, justice and equality.

It must use every resource, every capability and every innovation we have in the service of the people of this country.

Our new economy must open new horizons and offer new opportunities.

Over the past month, South Africans have opened their hearts each other.

Even at this moment when such great sacrifice is demanded of us, we look to a better future with optimism.

Even as we find ourselves at a moment of great peril, even as great sacrifices are demanded, even as we dare not allow our vigilance to waver, we look ahead to a better future.

I have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans, who have proven time and time again – throughout our history – that they can rise to the challenge.

We shall recover.

We shall overcome.

We shall prosper.

May God bless South Africa and protect her people.

I thank you.

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 20 APRIL 2020

Dear Fellow South African,

Many countries around the world have imposed coronavirus lockdowns with a view to saving the lives of their citizens. We have done the same in our country, but our lockdown has revealed a very sad fault line in our society that reveals how grinding poverty, inequality and unemployment is tearing the fabric of our communities apart.

There can be no greater anguish than that of a parent whose children cry out to them for food, but they have none to give.

There can be no greater injustice than a society where some live in comfort and plenty, while others struggle at the margins to survive with little or nothing at all.

Yes, these are the residual effects of a fractured and unequal past. But they are also a symptom of a fundamental failing in our post-apartheid society. The nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus has gravely exacerbated a long-standing problem.

Over the past three weeks, we have been confronted with distressing images of desperate people clamouring for food parcels at distribution centres and of community protests against food shortages.

We have also had to contend with allegations both disturbing and disgusting. A number of provinces have received reports that callous individuals, some of them allegedly government officials, are hoarding or selling food parcels earmarked for the needy and destitute, or diverting them to their friends and families.

If there is found to be substance to these allegations we will deal with the individuals concerned harshly.

With the declaration of a national state of disaster and the imposition of a nation-wide lockdown we entered uncharted waters. South Africa has never had to deal with a public health emergency of this magnitude.

We had to act quickly to save lives. And we must acknowledge that in the days and weeks that have followed, the provision of support to our country’s most vulnerable citizens has been slower than required, and that lapses have occurred.

However, the payment of social grants has proceeded relatively smoothly, and after a number of technical challenges, the food distribution system is being streamlined.

Imposing a nationwide lockdown at very short notice presented several challenges. We have had to weigh up the proportionality of the national response and the extent of restrictions we would need to impose.

We ultimately chose to err on the side of caution. And as the presentation by the Ministry of Health last week indicated, enforcing a lockdown at the time we did has slowed down the rate of infection and, more importantly, bought us time to prepare for a probable surge in infections in the coming weeks and months.

We had to consider the impact on an already floundering economy in both the long and short term, and the impact of this substantial disruption on the livelihoods of millions of people.
 
We had to consider what weeks of confinement to the home would mean for the employed not paid regular salaries, for the unemployed and those seeking work, for those in casual or seasonal employment, for those in the informal sector, for the indigent and for the vulnerable.
 
Cabinet will finalise a set of measures to respond to the impact of the lockdown on the livelihoods of our people. This has been preceded by a range of engagements with a number of stakeholders including business, labour, religious organisations, civil society and the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.

The social partners have put forward a number of proposals on interventions that could address the immediate vulnerability of the poorest of the poor, most of whom rely on social assistance to survive.

We will scale up welfare provision during this period to help households living below the poverty line.

Even when the nation-wide lockdown is lifted, its effects will continue to be felt for some time to come.

Those fortunate to have a steady income will be able to return to their jobs; but for millions of others this will be a lost month where they would otherwise have found temporary work, done business in the informal sector or saved money earned to meet their family responsibilities.
 
Food support is a short-term emergency measure. It will need to be matched by sustainable solutions that help our most vulnerable citizens weather the difficult times that are still to come.
 
I wish to thank the many NGOs, religious groups and ordinary citizens who are donating money and volunteering to help feed the hungry and destitute.

Alleviating hunger is not an act of charity. It is an imperative for any society that is founded on respect for human rights.

We are at a point in our battle with the pandemic where complacency could prove disastrous. I call on each and every one to remain vigilant, to continue to abide by the regulations, and to keep safe and keep others safe.

As government we will this week be providing information on the direct interventions we are taking to shield our most vulnerable citizens from the grim prospect of starvation.

Among the many difficulties our people face at this time, wondering where their next meal will come from should not be one of them.

With best wishes,

President Cyril Ramaphosa