The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry was on May 22 briefed by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition about measures taken by the department in response to Covid-19’s impact on various industries.
The department told the committee that the national lockdown has served its purpose and that it is now time to open the economy.
A large part of the economy is expected to reopen as the country moves to Level 3 of the lockdown next month, although a date for this is yet to be confirmed.
The department’s director-general (DG), Lionel October, said South Africa’s economy, like many others across the globe, will no doubt contract substantially as a result of the impact of Covid-19.
The committee heard that, as part of interventions to keep industries afloat during this difficult period, the department is assisting companies in distress through funding and has also made significant investments assisting companies manufacturing personal protective equipment.
“The procurement is done by the departments of Health and Education. Our role is to mobilise the industry to make sure it is able to produce and protect jobs,” October told the committee.
The committee also heard that although the lockdown has had devastating effects on the economy, it has achieved its objectives and the provinces were now prepared for an increase in Covid-19 cases.
There is, however, conflicting advice on South Africa’s planned move to relax the lockdown, especially from the World Health Organisation, which has advised that the rate of infection must first fall before countries can start relaxing lockdowns.
Government is in a process to finalise consultation with different stakeholders on how to systematically reopen industries and get the economy back to work.
Industries will be required to ensure worker safety and protection as a condition to return to business and companies that do not put safety measures in place will be forced to close.
Committee chairperson Duma Nkosi said the committee would schedule a follow-up meeting for Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel to respond to outstanding questions raised by committee members.