President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed questions around how the media has been treated by the police, the opening of churches, and social grants among other issues during a virtual discussion with the South African Editors Forum (Sanef).
Ramaphosa says the media has informed, stimulated debate, and helped hold those in government accountable during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President assured the media that he was open to more engagement in the future and said he welcomed criticism from the media.
Ramaphosa says, “So we welcome this however critical it might be of us we welcome it. Because we have a constitution that promotes media freedom and the media plays a very important and critical role in the political architecture of our country we want you to continue to fulfill this role and this time around you’ve been fulfilling it under very difficult conditions.
Ramaphosa said he will instruct Police Minister Bheki Cele to ensure the safe return of South Africa journalist Paul Nthoba who fled to Lesotho after being intimidated by police.
He says, “I’m going to direct the Minister of Police to make sure that he has safe passage back into South Africa and that he should not be molested in anyway…I’m going to get the Minister of Police to make sure he does come back and he’s not subjected to any form of threats any form of harassment because as you correctly say he was doing his work.”
Ramaphosa reiterated that the decision to reverse the lifting of the ban on the sale of cigarettes was a collective decision. He said the only mistake was not announcing the change himself.
“The change came about as a result of a flurry of concerns and objections that were raised by a number of South Africans in their thousands. We then had to go back to the drawing board and then finally announce the change, now obviously people have taken issue with the way the announcement was made by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. What we should’ve done is the President having announced it, the President should’ve been the one to announce it again and give reasons why this was being changed,” added Ramaphosa.
Responding to a question about the logic behind the lifting of the ban on church gatherings, Ramaphosa said not all churches will be operating
“In fact, some of them are saying to us we will only be ready in August, we will only be ready in September and we’ve said we welcome that, we’ve also welcome those who said because we are not ready at all we are not open so our approach has been based on consultation it’s based on discussions with the religious leaders themselves and I believe that it will be well managed,” says Ramaphosa.
Last week during its virtual media conference the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called for the increase on social grant and the unemployment relief grant to be made permanent. Ramaphosa said the grants can only be paid for six months.
“With our revenue source shrinking we saw and heard the commissioner of SARS saying that we are going to be short of R285 billion, now that is money that could’ve come in handy from a fiscal point of view. We are in a serious situation and what we have done was to craft a R500 billion assistance both for our social and economic relief package to help to navigate vulnerable people in our country as well as companies that are in distress and this is clearly for a limited time.”
Ramaphosa said he was optimistic about the future of the SOE’s and said a State Enterprises Council will be appointed soon to advise the government on how to manage SOE’s post-COVID-19.
Ramaphosa says, “I see a good future for SAA and similarly I see even a better future for Eskom and quite a number of other interventions we are making around Eskom and all these are being done in a proper way with proper consultation and we’ll soon be announcing the names of the State Enterprises Council which will help in advising us the government how to move forward with our state-owned enterprises so post-COVID-19. I think our state-owned enterprises will be better positioned.”