On Saturday before the speech by Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa social media was awash with predictions of doom and gloom. But in the end, the move down to Level 2 of the lockdown, and the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco culminated in a cumulative sigh of relief from Covid-weary South Africans.

However, the pessimism displayed by thousands of citizens indicated a growing sense of distrust in our government’s response to the pandemic. Suspect reasons for maintaining the ban on alcohol and tobacco sales, together with questionable medical responses to the pandemic in some provinces and a growing discomfort over our slumping economy have left many with a bitter taste in their mouths.

The effect the lockdown has had on most South Africans is clearly discernible. You do not have to look far to find households in distress. Neither do you have to search hard to find people desperately looking for jobs. In many instances financial ruin is just one pay check away.

This may be looked upon by some as just one unfortunate aspect of the new normal, but it should not necessarily be accepted as inevitable. We are in this situation as a result of a world-wide pandemic that has wreaked havoc on thousands of people’s lives and livelihoods in this country. We were asked to accept lockdown as part of our new reality, but now it is up to government to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to assist in creating a new normal where economic growth, rather than disaster is the norm.

We need bureaucrats who have received their full salary all this while, to realise that the time has come for them to contribute as much as every other citizen has been called upon to do. When a non-essential activity or project comes up for consideration, the question must be whether it will be to the benefit of all our citizens and the welfare of the country as a whole. Given the extent of poverty and other widespread social crises in South Africa, wasteful expenditure and nice-to-have can no longer be an option.

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