Opposition parties and South Africans openly rejecting the announcement of an adjusted level 4 lockdown have shown how an intense showdown between the government and the rest of the country could be brewing.
Just minutes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the adjusted level 4 lockdown restrictions on Sunday evening, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) issued a press release.
“The EFF rejects the announcement by Cyril Ramaphosa and calls on the people of South Africa to defy Ramaphosa until there is a clear vaccination plan for the whole country,” the EFF said.
Their statement came two days after the party came out in their hundreds and marched to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) offices to demand that Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinovac vaccines be approved.
On Sunday, police said the EFF was formally charged because the march action was against Disaster Management Act regulations.
No unity, no compliance
Political analyst Daniel Silke said the problem was that the state itself had yet to prove to be an efficient partner with citizens over the last year.
“That creates despondency among people, which creates difficulty complying with these regulations,” Silke added.
Silke said the population would have a much better degree of sympathy for the government, and shown more compliance, if the majority of South Africans felt the state was being efficient in the way it was handling the vaccination roll-out.
“One of the problems was people are just feeling despondent because of the poor performance of this state on both of those issues.”
Silke said there was no real excuse for the issue of hospital beds not being properly commissioned, or delays in vaccine roll-outs.
“The state has had a year to prepare the health care service for these variants which we already knew were here and coming,” Silke said.
However, Silke added there was no room for this kind of political backlash or non-compliance.
“It would be highly irresponsible for political parties to flout any of the regulations deliberately or to use some sort of political football to try and gain support,” Silke said.
Senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Johan Burger, said there have been incidents where the police arrested people because they were allegedly not complying with the lockdown regulations.
“But the general feeling, without any specific data indicating that the police have applied regulation and judging purely by media reports, it seems as if the police have not applied the regulations so strictly,” he said.
Burger said it was as if there was a more relaxed attitude towards implementing the regulations, at least until before the adjusted level 4 announcement.
He added that current level 4 restrictions take the country back to where it was last April.
“There was generally a more bearable attitude towards the regulations, compared to the same period last year,” Burger added.
He said after various complaints were laid about the police not enforcing the regulations at the EFF’s march, a formal case was opened by police against the EFF.
“I suspect that police will now step up the application of the regulation after the announcement of the new level,” Burger said.
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