02 June 2020
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says a potential winning formula for tackling Covid-19 cases in towns and municipalities could be found in the example of Witzenberg – which went from 263 live cases to just under 40.
The fruit farming town of Ceres in the Western Cape – famous for its fruits and juices – has been held up for its “winning formula”, and in providing an example for South Africa to follow in the fight against Covid-19.
The praise came from Mkhize, on the second day of a provincial inspection of health facilities.
Mkhize heard that, in Ceres, cases had decreased from a high of 263 active cases down to a current total of around 38, and nine deaths. According to the province’s dashboard, 216 people had so far recovered in Ceres, as of Tuesday.
There was though outstanding test results for a number of pending samples in the municipality.
Mkhize said Ceres was famous for its “juices” – and dared not suffer any global reputational damage due to Covid-19. But, equally, South Africa could not afford any such negative publicity either.
It was, therefore, essential for South Africans to work together “to reconstruct our economy, rebuild our society, rebuild our health institutions”.
“And out of the Covid-19 response, South Africa must become a become a better country.
“This is giving us an opportunity to be united, to see ourselves as one country, one nation, one people, that support each other and our long-term survival as a nation depends on what each and every one of us does,” Mkhize urged.
The Western Cape’s provincial agriculture minister, Ivan Meyer, told Mkhize: “The Cape Winelands is the biggest soft fruit industry in the Southern Hemisphere – below the Equator. So this is a very important area for South Africa. In fact, 45% of South Africa’s agricultural exports come from this province. So if you talk about export earnings, it happens here, for the South African Revenue Service.”
As such, it had been essential to tackle the Covid-19 crisis with intensive attention to detail.
As part of this, Meyer announced all municipal ward councillors in the Western Cape may soon have an “app” with updated Covid-19 statistics in their individual wards. This would enable every ward councillor to personally lead behavioural change in their communities.
There are almost 400 municipal wards in the Western Cape.
Meyer said the virus had initially spread with dramatic speed in Ceres.
Witzenberg mayor Barnito Klaasen said the townsfolk had initially not taken the pandemic seriously enough.
But Meyer then described a “whole of government” and “whole of society” approach, which had dramatically halted the spread of the virus.
The strategy, he said, was based on four pillars: Ownership, integration, daily monitoring of data and aggressive behavioural change.
Mkhize agreed, arguing: “I had always been concerned about the figures from Ceres.”
He praised the multi-disciplinary team, from different departments, as well as the community and commercial business community, who were all collaborating closely.
Mkhize said businesses, which invested in the safety of their people, were practicing “a very, very wise approach” – because “the basis of your economic activity is healthy people”.
“When people are healthy, you’re going to thrive,” he promised.
Meyer said their interventions in the area include training for farmers and farm workers, a food bank, to ensure “not one person goes hungry”, sanitising of public places, travel protocols for seasonal workers, and enlistment of locally-respected figures and leaders to spread the safety message.
Mkhize said it was essential the Covid-19 fight was led by communities.
“The doctors can only do so much, the nurses can do so much, the health professionals can do so much – but the key thing now is that the community must take over the programme. I like the idea that councillors, NGOs, everybody – now need to wake up and say, ‘what’s happening with Covid in my constituency?'” Mkhize said of the new “app”.
The app will help track Covid-19 in every ward.
Meyer told Mkhize: “You are standing now in a town which, 50 years ago, there was an earthquake.”
But the tragedy had “united this town like never before… people’s houses were destroyed.
“I believe you are standing, on the ground now, where you will see a similar effect, post-Covid-19. You are standing on healing ground,” Meyer told the minister.