Kampala, Uganda | XINHUA | South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday warned of a “long and difficult” path to recovery amid widespread protests in Cape Town against economic hardship.
“As several parts of our country experience a surge in coronavirus infections, we are also confronted with the economic damage of this pandemic,” Ramaphosa said in his weekly address to the nation.
As he was speaking, thousands of disgruntled citizens took to the streets in Cape Town to protest against the worsening economic plight experienced by vulnerable communities.
Protests turned violent in some parts of the city as protesters blocked streets, burned tires and stoned passing vehicles. Five people were arrested for suspected involvement in acts of violence, police said.
The Cape Coloured People’s Congress (CCPC), which organized the protests, threatened to shut down the city until their grievances were addressed.
The organization claimed that colored communities had suffered from poorer service delivery and higher unemployment, particularly during the pandemic.
Addressing the public grievances, Ramaphosa said this is not the time to despair but to act to rejuvenate the economy.
“Despite the economic challenges we face, we must continue to work towards the achievement of economic dignity for all South Africans,” said Ramaphosa.
The current 30-percent unemployment rate will soon increase with a drastic decline in economic activity and in confidence, he said, citing analysts as estimating that the pandemic will cost the country millions of jobs.
“Despite the support measures we have put in place, businesses are being forced to close and jobs are being lost,” said the president.
With the advent of the coronavirus, the country needs to pursue new sources of growth within a fundamentally different context, he said.
The president identified the “new sources” as growing small and medium enterprise sector and the agricultural sector that deliver food security.
“We should, for example, use this opportunity to build a greener economy, with our entrepreneurs entering new fields such as hybrid cars, fuel cells, battery storage and waste beneficiation,” Ramaphosa said.
He said South Africa will take advantage of its chairship of the African Union (AU) to vigorously push for the activation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which has been delayed by the pandemic.
All social partners see the value of expanding trade in an integrated Africa, with concrete proposals on how to overcome the barriers that impede the ability of Africans to trade with one another, said Ramaphosa.
“Our strategies to promote local production, which is a common theme across the various recovery plans, should support efforts to create regional value chains on the continent,” he said.
Building on the vast areas of common ground among the proposals from social partners, the government has put in place a clear, focused and ambitious set of measures to not only restore the economy, but also to set it on a new path of inclusive and sustainable growth, according to Ramaphosa.