The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) welcomes the termination of the National State of Disaster, which came into effect last night, midnight (04/05 March 2022).
This termination is going to provide a relief for the economic sectors that were suffocated by the restrictions that came with national lockdown levels such as restaurants, tourism, transport and entertainment. But because this mode of production is a whole, with different sectors interconnected, the interruptions in one sector disturb the flow across the whole of the economy.
These sectors, and other sectors connected to them, suffered in terms of GDP growth, and shed jobs dramatically in the periods of hard lockdown levels.
The value of all goods and services in trade dropped by 9.1% in the 4th quarter of 2020, and transport, which is also directly linked with hospitality and tourism, dropped by 14.8%.
Most certainly, this was caused by restrictions of international travel for the longest time during that year, and interprovincial travels that had also been limited as a result of restrictions.
Employment in the Trade sector, a sector which encompass several sub-sectors including hospitality, was 3.2 million by December 2019, and by December 2021, it had come to 2.8 million. This represented more than 300 000 negative difference. In other words, the sectors had still not recovered the jobs they shed in the 24 months period between 2020 and 2021.
The termination of the National State of Disaster presents new prospects and possibilities for growth in these sectors. Though, due to the structure of our economy, this key development does not mean the economy will grow generally, and create jobs.
The South African economy had began to contract even before Covid-19 – in the last two quarters of 2019 in particular. Covid-19 merely acted to exacerbate the problem, leading to 7% decline in economic growth in 2020, and resulting in over 1.5 million unemployment rate increase.
Therefore, whilst it is important to celebrate the lifting off of the National State of Disaster, it is important to keep a perspective that we are dealing with neo-colonial and neoliberal capitalism, where multinational take-overs result in restructuring that leads to massive job shedding instead of job creation. So, every reason exists for us to remain less hopeful, despite the announcement from the president being a huge relief for us in many ways.
This means, so far as the economy is concerned, it is only the transformation from capitalism to socialism that holds optimistic prospects for growing the economy that will create jobs and promote social welfare.
That the National State of Disaster has ended does not mean working people should not continue with the necessary precautions such as hand-washing.
Reports have shown in 2020 and 2021 that seasonal respiratory diseases had dramatically
declined due to constant washing of hands, regular hand-sanitising and wearing of face
Washing hands is a simple and necessary hygienic practice which we must emulate continuously even into a non-Covid future. That will help us avoid contracting seasonal influenza, which are also deadly. The Lung Institute at the University of Cape Town reported that seasonal flu kills between 6000 to 11 000 people in South Africa every year.