The call made by Julius Malema, the EFF’s leader, at a June 16 gathering in Pretoria, to defy Covid-19 protocols, was labelled “reckless” and “jeopardising” people’s lives by some.
A day earlier, during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “Family Meeting”, he announced the country would move to lockdown alert level 3, in response to a spike in the Covid-19 infection rates.
Ramaphosa said only 50 people could attend indoor events and outdoor gatherings could be no more than 100.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Gauteng was leading the third wave as it was accountable for about two of every three new confirmed cases found across the country.
Ridhwaan Suliman, a senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said data showed that Gauteng’s current dire state would surpass what the province experienced during the second wave.
On Friday, acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said the soaring number of Covid-19 infections in Gauteng was worrying and called for SANDF’s deployment in the province to reinforce mass screening and contact tracing.
She also requested the military's assistance in order to address the shortage of hospital beds and staff.
Malema’s call for defiance was made in front of a large gathering of supporters clad in red, outside the Uitsig High School in Centurion.
“From today, we won't listen to what Ramaphosa says about the coronavirus. We don’t comply with nonsense he says about the coronavirus until he gives us vaccines and vaccinates our people, because he has no intention of vaccinating our people,” commanded Malema.
The EFF’s Commander in Chief was displeased with the low number of vaccinations thus far and raised that there are other vaccine supplier options available, like the Russians, but were not taken.
“Let us go and reclaim our country from Ramaphosa. If it means death, so be it. If it is a prison, we will wait with honour, because prison for revolutionaries is honour. Only cowards will be scared of prison,” was Malema’s rallying call for defiance.
Tyrone Seale, the acting spokesperson for the Presidency said the president spelt out the dangers that continue to confront the country and the protective measures needed.
“ It’s there to save us from illness, death and the dire economic impact of this pandemic,” said Seale.
Luyolo Mphithi, the DA’s National Youth spokesperson, said they shelved their own June 16 event, which was a planned indoor event, after hearing the president’s announcement.
“The new regulations said only 50 indoors, so we cancelled.
“We can’t deny the lockdown has hampered business and affected a lot of people, but Malema’s call to defy the protocols and ignore precautions is reckless and a recipe for disaster,” said Mphithi.
Mkhuleko Hlengwa, IFP national spokesperson, said government had caricatured itself as a lone ranger in a desperate, yet failing, attempt to politic and garner support with an international health crisis that transcended politics.
"Ramaphosa has consistently missed opportunities to unite the country in the fight against Covid-19 with his abandonment of consultations with political parties insofar the regulations are concerned. However, we don’t support the EFF and Malema's defiance and deem it reckless and irresponsible. We call on Ramaphosa to return to the original modus operandi of consultations which characterized governments work at the start of the pandemic," said Hlengwa.
The EFF did not respond to Sunday Tribune’s questions.
However, during a subsequent radio interview, Omphile Maotwe, the EFF treasurer-general, gave insight into the call for defiance.
Maotwe emphasised that their Wednesday gathering was not “illegal”.
“Ever since lockdown level 3, aeroplanes have been operating as normal for about a year. Regulations presently say a gathering inside should be 50 people or 50% of the permitted capacity.
“Why is that not applied to aeroplanes? There is no social distancing. Why are we not questioning Ramaphosa, is it because white people use aeroplanes. We are being marginalised and in our own country?”
Maotwe said they were not going to fold their arms when people are being ill-treated. “Corona was brought to SA via an aeroplane.”
She said in an airport social distancing was observed but not inside the plane.
“Why restrict numbers for gatherings to 50 people when Ramaphosa has declared elections. How must we lobby people to vote for us?
“The president always has the platform, he doesn’t need to mobilise. He has the platform to campaign all the time”
Maotwe said they needed to tell supporters what the EFF will do for them and expose the corruption of the ANC and the government.
“The media is protecting Ramaphosa and some of his ministers, and not reporting fairly on their failures.”
The ANC did not respond to questions at the time of going to print.