President Cyril Ramaphosa said the economy could be devastated if the coronavirus spread to South Africa.
Ramaphosa said the spread of the disease could particularly effect investment and conferences. He was speaking at a conference in Cape Town on Tuesday with the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) and the Parliamentary Press Gallery Association (PGA).
"It's already affecting more than 72 countries around the world. No doubt, we are going to be a candidate as more and more countries are being affected by this virus," he said at an engagement with the South African National Editors' Forum in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Coronavirus enigma: Experts ask why Africa seems to have few cases
The deadly outbreak has killed more than 3 000 people and infected more than 90 000.
"We are going to be affected quite negatively as it spreads. Worst of all would be the impact on the health of our people," Ramaphosa said.
While South Africa has no recorded cases of the coronavirus, there is reason to worry as it would have a devastating impact on the country should it hit.
Signs of a recession always there
Ramaphosa tied this threat to news that South Africa was in a technical recession, saying this did not come as a surprise or shock as the signs have been there.
"The drivers of this lack of growth and technical recession that we are in now were there for all of us to see; load shedding and the impact it has had on production, both at a manufacturing level as well as with trade," he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Statistics SA released new gross domestic product numbers which showed the country's economy had shrunk by 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Ramaphosa said agriculture experienced the biggest slump due to the drought experienced in several parts of the country.
"Drivers of this also point to a weakness in terms of our own economy, and the effect of global uncertainty. Right now, the world is going through a great moment of uncertainty, which is going to have a huge impact on growth."
Not a dictator
When asked how he rated himself, the president said, "very well", after which he explained he remained dedicated to delivering on his mandate to South Africans and building a consensus among those he worked with.
"It is not in my nature to be a dictator."
He said while some have called him weak, he would rather have it that way.
"Some people say you are a weak president because you are not going to agree to the firing of people at Eskom, that's fine."
When asked if he would want a second term, Ramaphosa said that would be up to the ANC collective which voted him into the position at its elective conference in 2017.
"Stay around, you may see this movie again," he said.