from Louis in Johannesburg: South Africa – first lockdown …

19 April. South Africa has passed through the first lock-down tranche of 21 days. In light of infection numbers not being fully arrested a further tranche of 20 days has been declared by President Ramaphosa and his most visible advisor Dr Zweli Mkhize now Minister of health. Today registered the highest jump of 251 new infection of a total base pf 3,304.  Mkhize has clearly learn from his experience with HIV and AIDS where he stared down Past President Mbeki and his cookie ideas. From behind this political face of the pandemic has surfaced the authoritative Professor Salim Abdool Karim, affectionately called “Slim”, immunologist, infectious disease specialist from Uni of Kwazulu-Natal. Also an activist during the apartheid era. He cautions: its not over yet, SA has all the conditions for an explosion in infection levels. The data are not there to yet be sure of the actual levels of infection let alone the growth of infections in hot spots. He also cautions against lifting the lockdown prematurely.

Another virus seems to have migrated from the apartheid era into specific ministers and members of the SAPS. Police brutality persists within pockets of a generally helpful SA Police Service. The Minister of police forbids couples to kiss, huh? The social media has roundly ridiculed this. The so-called Red Ants have selectively demolished shacks in Khayelitsha. Thankfully the Gift of the Givers has erected a shelter for these now homeless people. Pitiful tales are now emerging from informal settlements reporting children who have not had a meal in three and more days. Protests and looting have broken out in numerous parts of SA with the root cause, hunger. These incidents have been exacerbated by the Politicians in the ANC doing their selfish selective distribution to party members first. There seems to be a general lack of capacity to distribute food to those in need. Bureaucracy also delays and politicises food distribution.

On a more positive note a “Centre for Analytics and Behaviour Change” CABC at Uni of Cape Town to report on trends in the above incidents but also to cement positive change as it emerges.  Renewed efforts to supply water to townships via newly-built trucking systems free of corruption and price gouging dependent, poor residents. There are calls for the unity that existed across communities during the apartheid era, aka Ubuntu. The CABC is focussing on solutions to the emerging post Covid19 dynamics suggesting basic income grants UIF funding efficiency and more. Their espoused aim is to track and counter mis- and disinformation, fake news and divisive polarising rhetoric that undermines social cohesion, democratic integrity and stability. A positive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is there is a growing realisation that we have not delivered the promises of 1994. The constant reminder of the desperate plight of the poor, homeless and unemployed, exposed by the pandemic remind us of this. Some say the Coronavirus provides us with a new beginning. The emergence of the CABC is a start to ensuring this trend continues.

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