• Pam Saxby


Updated: Sep 17

Official government statistics estimate that this nasty ol' virus has taken nearly 16 thousand lives to date - and Discovery Health believes it would have been far worse without a hard lockdown (News24). Yet the Democratic Alliance (DA) (South Africa's official opposition) has been relentless in its criticism of the way President Cyril Ramaphosa's administration has handled the crisis. When the State of Disaster was extended last week by another month, the party's Haniff Hoosen wrote: 'The extension of the National State of Disaster to 15 October 2020 by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is just a another attempt by an autocratic regime to cling onto its dictatorial powers and loot what’s left of relief funding'.

Yes, I know ... The widespread corruption associated with government's procurement of personal protective equipment is a national disgrace, described by the President himself as 'akin to murder' (City Press). But what would have happened if South Africa had adopted Sweden's approach to managing the virus? We shall never know, of course - but as a developing country (a polar opposite to Sweden, one of the world's most advanced nations), surely erring on the side of caution was the most responsible thing to do?

Yesterday, interim DA leader John Steenhuisen called on government to 'trust people to take individual responsibility in line with clear safety guidelines', noting that the 'severe and prolonged lockdown has plunged our economy, the lifeline of our society, into unprecedented crisis'. 'We simply cannot afford the luxury of blanket restrictions on economic activity,' he insisted.

But that's easy enough to say if you're unlikely ever to occupy the hot seat in post-apartheid South Africa. And if Steenhuisen had been President when the international pandemic reached our shores, would he have put lives or the economy first? I have no idea if his parents are still alive (although I sincerely hope they are), but I do wonder what he would have said if one (or both) had succumbed to the virus under more relaxed measures ... After all, they're likely to be among those considered most vulnerable to the virus simply by virtue of age ...

As president of this deeply divided country, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't - no matter what the issue, it seems.

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