🔒 How world sees SA: Formidable leader “seized by the urgency of the moment”

Many Western nations with sophisticated health systems have faltered in dealing with the outbreak of the coronavirus. Within the European Union, each country adopted a different approach even though they are so closely linked with some countries belatedly enforcing a lockdown, while Sweden bet on residents acting responsibly with no restrictions on movement. It is also an approach which the United Kingdom initially took, but a sharp increase in cases of Covid-19 indicating it was on track to emulate the devastation of Spain and Italy, prompted a lockdown. In many Western nations; there is still a serious shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and widespread testing has not taken place. As the virus rages across the East and Europe; many African countries were quick off the mark to close borders and take steps to try to protect their citizens against the pandemic. This is in sharp contrast to the United States handling of the disease, with President Donald Trump tweeting at the end of February that the “Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” The US has since become the worst hit country in the world with more than 245 000 cases and 6000 deaths and stock markets have taken a nosedive. South Africa’s handling of the pandemic has been praised by the BBC. President Cyril’s leadership is described as “formidable” and African correspondent Andrew Harding says Health Minister Zweli Mkhize “has likewise garnered near universal praise”. – Linda van Tilburg

By Thulasizwe Sithole

In an article titled “South Africa’s ruthlessly efficient fight against coronavirus”, Andrew Harding writes that it would be dangerously tempting a week after a nationwide lockdown were imposed in South Africa – “to breathe a sigh of relief”. The total number of deaths are still low at only 5 with 1,400 positive cases. The country can boast 47,000 tests which include 67 mobile testing units and there are even drive-through testing centres. This will soon be ramped up to 30,000 people a day.

Harding praises South Africa for acting “faster, more efficiently and more ruthlessly” than many other countries around the globe and describes the emergence of President Cyril Ramaphosa as a “formidable leader – composed, compassioned, but seized by the urgency of the moment.” Ramaphosa hastened with the help of the private sector to impose tough, restrictive steps.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Harding writes, is universally praised for his “no-nonsense, energetic performance” in his daily briefings. Mkhize has warned that the low numbers in South Africa means that the country should not be complacent; “what we may currently be experiencing is the calm before a heavy and devastating storm.” There is a realisation that quick action is needed to avoid the country being swarmed.”

The Health Minister said the virus has spread inside the country and the government does not have a true picture of what the size of the problem is. “For all South Africa’s impressive early steps; the real battle lies ahead and the real test of the country’s health system has yet to begin”, Harding says.  With the high levels of poverty; the fight against the coronavirus “will be fought, lost or won in the country’s poorest communities.”

South Africa is after years of corruption and cronyism, which has damaged key state institutions, not well prepared to deal with a pandemic that has hollowed out state institutions. Adrian Enthoven from the Solidarity Fund told the BBC that South Africa was in a stronger position during the global financial crisis of 2008.

A senior figure in a provincial department told Harding that senior management is overwhelmed; “they’re mostly cadre-deployment. They’re completely out of their depth” and are against any form of cooperation with the private sector.

Mistakes have been made in the opposition of the lockdown with the police and army acting “with thuggish abandon” during the lockdown “humiliating, beating and even shooting civilians” in Johannesburg. Social distancing has been difficult to impose and the necessary hygiene is difficult as many of the country’s poorest areas are crowded. “Many fear that the virus could yet wreak havoc.”

Harding writes that a government that “is so often attacked as corrupt and inefficient and a private sector so often seen as aloof and greedy, are rising” to meet the greatest challenge that the country has ever seen.

“For all South Africa’s impressive early steps, the real battle lies ahead and the real test of the country’s health system has yet to begin.”

Visited 1,009 times, 1 visit(s) today