Martin Luther King, Jr, said the following: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy”.
As Parliament, we welcome the statement of the Ministry of Health. We would want from the onset to express our utmost appreciation for the commendable way in which the Ministry has dealt with this unprecedented global crisis.
The world is facing a medical emergency far graver than what we have experienced in over a century. The World Health Organisation has declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global pandemic.
Never before in the history of our democracy has our country been confronted with such a severe situation.
The President has declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act. This has set in motion varied processes to implement an integrated and co-ordinated disaster mechanism, which will focus on preventing and reducing the outbreak of the virus across the country.
As Parliament, we have come to the realisation that the Corona Virus pandemic will severely disrupt our Parliament programme and activities. As a result, we took a decision to convene a special meeting between Presiding Officers, Chief Whips and Party Representatives, in order to look into devising immediate interventions in line with the President’s announcement of a national state of disasters, as announced on Monday evening.
We took a number of decisive preventive measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including the screening of Members of Parliament for possible exposure to the Coronavirus. We also devised a number of interventions to ensure the protection of the Parliamentary community and visitors, including the installation of hand sanitizers and the availability of an on-site medical support team for screening and testing.
Honourable Members, we have also made the most difficult decision of suspending the operations of Parliament. Parliament will be closed to the public until further notice. Arrangements are also being made to reduce the number of staff members on the Parliamentary Precinct, in line with the President’s announcement.
As Parliament, we are in full support of our government’s plans to respond to the virus. The time is now most befitting for us to imbue within ourselves, a greater sense of political maturity and leadership. We must also work together across the party political spectrum, in order to give hope and clarity to our constituencies.
His Excellency Former President Thabo Mbeki once said “Gloom and despondency have never defeated adversity. Trying times need courage and resilience. Our strength as a people is not tested during the best of times.
We, therefore, call on all South Africans to join efforts with our government, to ensure we deal with the Coronavirus.
19 March 2020