In a meeting with business leaders on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that an “extensive social and economic relief package” would be launched in the coming days to respond to the recent crisis and called for the creation of a “special social contract” to build a more inclusive economy.
The meeting included more than 90 CEOs and business leaders of key industries impacted by the recent civil unrest in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Ramaphosa said government was working with social partners to finalise a package that would provide food relief and support for businesses affected by recent violence, looting and property damage.
The measures would seek to:
- respond to the immediate needs of poor households affected by both the pandemic and the recent violence;
- help businesses to rebuild in the aftermath of looting and destruction of property;
- support sectors affected by restrictions on economic activity;
- contribute to the longer-term goal of increasing growth, boosting employment and eradicating poverty.
The package would include the extension and repurposing of some of the Covid-19 relief measures, as well as specific relief for sectors, such as retail and property, affected by the unrest.
“These measures should support the work under way to re-open stores, find alternative retail sites and rehabilitate shopping centres and malls,” the President said.
Township, small and informal businesses would also be prioritised, as these “are among the hardest hit and the most vulnerable, and play a significant role in sustaining livelihoods and employment in poor communities”.
Details of the package would be released “within the next few days”.
Ramaphosa listed the relief package as being among four priorities that would be pursued following the unrest, initially triggered by what he described as a “deliberate, coordinated and well-planned attack on our democracy, the rule of law and our Constitution”.
“Those behind the acts sought to exploit the social and economic conditions of millions of South Africans to provoke ordinary citizens and activate criminal networks to engage in opportunistic acts of looting,” he added.
The other three priorities listed included: the restoration and maintenance of stability; the securing of essential supplies; and an acceleration of the economic recovery plan.
The violence and destruction of the past two weeks had also underlined the urgent need to decisively address poverty, inequality and unemployment. “We must build a special social contract among all of us to respond to the crisis, and rebuild an economy that is far more resilient, sustainable, dynamic and inclusive.”
In appealing for closer partnership and collaboration between stakeholders, Ramaphosa also proposed that government, business and labour “should consider undertaking joint ‘roadshows’ to reassure investors”.
“Let us seize this moment, not only to restore the damage of the last two weeks, but to push ahead with fundamental social and economic transformation.
“Let us mobilise all national resources and capabilities – in both the public and private sectors – to develop our country, build an inclusive economy, and foster social cohesion.”
At the virtual meeting, it was agreed that the social partners needed to work with greater urgency to tackle poverty and unemployment and improve the living conditions of all South Africans.
It was also agreed that a common effort was required to mobilise investment, develop appropriate skills and create opportunities for young people in particular.
Ramaphosa also welcomed the proposals raised by business leaders and their commitment to work with government, labour and communities not only to rebuild their businesses, but also to transform the economy.