It is two weeks since the Level 5 lockdown was lifted by President Cyril Ramaphosa. And on the evening of 13 May he gave indications of a possible further reduction of restrictions – some modest relief is imminent, but more importantly, this is offering hope of eventually being able to change from the daily routines established over the past seven weeks. It has been frustrating, but educational and necessary.
The global pandemic statistics continue to rise and so are our national infection and mortality rates as testing picks up pace, but the trend in South Africa is encouraging in terms of a slowing rate of increase and what will be a pragmatic approach to the lifting of the lockdown. Of interest is the low mortality rate of 1.8% in South Africa compared to the 6.7% globally. We have to continue the discipline of social distancing and other preventative behaviour as the lockdowns are relaxed in order to ‘live with the disease’ and prevent infections and deaths.
The mining industry, as represented by the Minerals Council South Africa, has been reporting on infections within the sector. As at 13 May, the total number of reported infections stands at 18, with zero fatalities. The industry has demonstrated impressive and co-ordinated action among its members and collaboration with government in response to the need to protect the safety President’s Corner of employees and surrounding communities. The leadership of the mining Ministry from Mr Gwede Mantashe is commendable. It’s a moment to be proud of working in this industry. Further details regarding developments and activities of the industry related to the COVID-19 response can be found at www.mineralscouncil.org.za
The world will not be the same when we emerge from the lockdowns – consequently, the SAIMM is evolving and preparing for the ‘new normal’. Of critical importance, the members of staff of the SAIMM remain safe and well while working from home. We continue to work on the strategic direction of the Institute to address our financial challenges. You will have begun to experience some of the changes through the launch of our webinars – this is a milestone for the SAIMM in terms of our digital strategy. There is still much more scope for development and progress that can be achieved.
The lockdown period provided various opportunities for learning, discussion, and preparation for the easing of the lockdown restrictions. The impact of this continuing set of circumstances on livelihoods and wellbeing will be unprecedented. Counted among others are the higher unemployment rate. which may reach 50% as a result of a possible 13% contraction in the economy. Government will not succeed on its own, even with the most brilliant economic recovery plan. As an industry and along with the private sector and other social partners, we have a huge task at hand and a role to play in rebuilding the country’s economy and stitching together the social fabric that will unite us and see us through this challenge.
I wish you safety and health during this challenging time, and urge you to maintain a positive attitude. This situation, too, shall pass.