CAPE TOWN, South Africa, May 23, 2020/ — The Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry was yesterday briefed by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition about measures taken by the department in response to Covid-19’s impact on 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 was expected to reopen as the country moves to level 3 of the lockdown next month.
The Department’s Director-General (DG), Mr Lionel October, said South Africa’s economy, like many others across the globe, will no doubt contract quite seriously 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 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,” the DG told the committee.
The committee also heard that though the lockdown has had devastating effects on the economy, it has achieved its objectives and the provinces were now prepared for an increase in cases of Covid-19.
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 lockdown.
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 who do not put safety measures in place will be forced to close.
Committee Chairperson Mr Duma Nkosi said the committee will schedule a follow-up meeting for Minister Ebrahim Patel to respond to outstanding questions raised by committee members.