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On Saturday, 15 August, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation to announce the decision to move down to Level 2 of lockdown.

The decision came with immense pressure to reopen the economy to avoid further economic damage.

Ramaphosa stated that the ban on alcohol and tobacco products will be lifted as of 17 August, and added that the government will allow restaurants and taverns across South Africa to return to business.

He added that Level 2 will allow movement around the country but that the restrictions on international travel will remain in place. According to the president, the country has made progress in the fight against COVID-19 and that South Africa had reached the peak of COVID-19 infections.

He said that a fall in the infection rates is seen where, in the past three weeks, confirmed cases has dropped from over 12,000 a day to around 5,000 a day, as well as an increase in people recovering, which is "significantly reducing the pressure on our health facilities".

"The recovery rate from coronavirus has risen from 48% at the time of my last address and now stands at 80%. The cumulative number of cases in our country remains extremely high at 583,653. However, the number of active cases is declining every day, and now stands at around 105,000. The virus appears to have peaked in several provinces, including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and possibly in KwaZulu-Natal."

After Ramaphosa made the announcement, opposition parties gave their comment on the procedures and decisions of the ANC.

DA leader, John Steenhuisen, fired back at Ramaphosa’s speech, stating that the damage to the economy has been done and that millions of jobs have been lost.

He said Ramaphosa’s decision was nothing but a "capitulation to the real power in the ANC", and added that they desperately wanted to cling to the "new normal", which they have created for SA these past five months.

He also stated that the decision to extend the State of Disaster, which was made by Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, must be regarded with the utmost suspicion. "The only thing the lockdown achieved was the devastation of our economy and the loss of millions of jobs. And that is what President Ramaphosa and his government must take responsibility for."

He added that the lifting of the ban on alcohol and tabaco products is not something which the government should be thanked for, due to the fact that the ban should have been lifted months ago together with all the other regulations which could have helped the economy.

"The President admitted this evening that the models used to justify shutting down the economy were wrong. This is not something he can casually mention and walk away from. If they paralysed our economy for five months based on wrong information, heads must roll right at the top."

Another opposition party slammed the actions taken by the ANC during the epidemic. Ernst Roets, Head of Policy and Action at AfriForum, stated that corruption, particularly the theft of the funds for relief of the COVID-19 pandemic, has not been dealt with.

In a statement, AfriForum commented that the President was warned by the country as well as the world's experts to act in a different manner, but he "succumbed to pressure from his corrupt comrades and could not resist the temptation to hold on to power in an irrational manner".

"Now, to thank the president for relaxing the lockdown measures would be like a prisoner thanking his kidnapper when he is set free. We are not suffering from Stockholm syndrome," stated Roets.

AfriForum announced that they will publish a plan containing practical steps which the government could take to empower the private sector and repair the damage caused by the lockdown. They are working on a comprehensive strategy for self-management amounting to minorities assuming responsibility for their own future and taking practical action to acquire greater control over their own affairs.

Political analyst, William Mervyn-Gumede, spoke out against the government’s failure to properly use the R500 billion loan guarantee scheme to assist small businesses which are hardest hit by the pandemic.

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