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STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES AND ASSET MANAGEMENT, ALDERMAN JAMES VOS.

On Friday, ahead of yesterday’s briefing, I wrote to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, to put forward key proposals on the phased reopening of the economy, so we can get as many people as possible back to work and earning an income, while still practising strict health protocols to continue to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Based on Minister Patel’s media briefing yesterday, it is clear that some of these proposals have been accepted which I very much welcome. These include allowing restaurants and fast-food outlets to open for delivery, the sale of personal Information and Communications Technology (ICT) equipment, manufacturing of certain goods and the easing of restriction on the construction sector.

However, more can be done to protect the livelihoods of people and the City of Cape Town’s proposals to Minister Patel include:

  • Allowing all retail stores selling non-essential items to be allowed to open immediately, with the implementation of strict health protocols. This should include, but not be limited to, hardware stores for general purchases as well as independent sports retailers.
  • Restaurants and fast food outlets should be allowed to open for deliveries as well as collections but only under very strictly controlled health protocols including social distancing and subject to stringent safety measures being in place for their employees.
  • Restrictions on e-commerce be eased to allow for all electronic equipment (which includes printers, scanners etc.) to be sold and delivered. This would assist with virtual /remote communication, business functioning and all e-learning initiatives.
  • All Small Micro and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMMEs) are allowed to reopen, regardless of the sector. They have the flexibility to pivot, adjust and demonstrate high levels of social distancing and health control, such as plumbers, electricians and specialist repair artisans. These industries employ hundreds of thousands of people who depend on salaries to keep their families going. The reopening of these businesses can be made subject to compliant social distancing measures being in place for their customers and stringent safety measures being in place for their employees.
  • Government should create a risk analysis score sheet for completion by all non-essential businesses. Should the business achieve a certain score, they should be allowed to reopen. Businesses that do not achieve the desired score should be allowed a window of time to modify their operation in order to attain the required score so that they can start their operation. Businesses that reopen must have their score sheet available for any government inspector to check. The inspector will check if they have been truthful in their scoring and that they have attained the required score to operate. If they are found to not be in compliance, they will be fined and shut down until they can comply. This is in line with current practice regarding tax, V.A.T and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to name a few.
  • The highly automated manufacturing businesses to return to full capacity, with additional focus on their potential to adapt and manufacture health care items. Relaxation should be granted on the basis of the introduction of staggered shifts and/or shift working.

The Minister also noted that the detailed proposals of which economic activity will be allowed under level 4 lockdown will only be confirmed and gazetted next week, after consultation with key stakeholders.

This means that there is an opportunity to ensure we get as many people back to work by putting forward meaningful proposals. I will continue to lobby and engage with Minister Patel in the coming weeks to ensure we strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods.

It important that as part of the rebuilding our economy, business organisations and members of the public are invited to submit comments on the schedule of services to be phased in as per the Covid-19 Risk Adjusted Strategy to be implemented with effect from 01 May 2020. The draft framework can be accessed  here and here.

Completed submissions must be sent via email to lockdowncomments@cogta.gov.za by by 12h00, on Monday, 27 April 2020.

By working together, we can weather this storm but only if we bring as many businesses as possible along with us so that there is something left to recover post-COVID-19.

Together with my Department of Enterprise and Investment and our industry partners, we will continue to do all we can to support as many businesses as possible so our economy is best placed to recover once we emerge from this crisis.

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