South Africans have been forced to violate the government’s draconian lockdown rules to earn some form of income, according to the Free Market Foundation (FMF).
The FMF’s Chris Hattingh said in a statement that this defiance of the hard lockdown culminated in the South African National Taxi Council (SANTANCO)’s refusal to comply with regulations on 29 June.
The organisation said that taxis would operate at 100% going forward – in open defiance of lockdown regulations. From 27 March this year, taxi operators have seen their customer base and potential for earning a profit forced out of existence by a lockdown intended to lessen the impact of COVID-19,” Hattingh said.
“To lessen some of the negative impact of lockdown, the government offered the industry a R1.1-billion relief package, which was subsequently rejected.”
Hattingh added that the economic damage caused by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown has left South Africans more vulnerable than ever.
This has resulted in increasing disregard of the government’s lockdown regulations by those who are desperate to earn money.
“In his recent COVID-19 emergency budget, finance minister Tito Mboweni delivered a revised GDP growth estimate of -7.2% in 2020,” Hattingh said.
“Add to that the news from Q1 2020, that the unemployment rate was 30.1% and youth unemployment is pushing the 60% mark.”
“Given such grim numbers we can understand why people are becoming more and more desperate and why they ignore lockdown regulations in a bid to generate some measure of income,” he said.
Hard lockdown is the wrong policy
Hattingh argued that the government’s policy of a hard lockdown was the wrong choice and it has resulted in the suppression of basic civil liberties.
“Throughout the lockdown, we’ve seen examples of what happens when people’s basic civil liberties and economic freedoms are summarily suspended,” he said. “The illicit tobacco market has flourished.”
“Because the government pursued the wrong policy path – a hard lockdown – in a country where economic freedom is still not enjoyed by all citizens, the effects of suspending economic activity were exacerbated exponentially.”
He said that for the simple human necessity of earning a living, people have been forced into desperate situations.
“What else could we expect, in an economy that was already on its last legs before the pandemic hit?”
“When the government outlaws basic human action and trade, all manner of illegal conduct results,” he said.
Hattingh said that when government intervention in the economy makes it virtually impossible for people to earn a living, it should not be surprising when South Africans decide they have had enough.
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