Ralph Mathekga: Going for broke in the time of Covid-19

It's is a crisis moment not only for the government, but also for communities who must now learn to live apart when they feel they need each other more than before, writes Ralph Mathekga.


President Ramaphosa has finally decided to go for broke in the fight against the coronavirus, announcing unprecedented and far-reaching measures generally characterised as a national lockdown.

It does not really get more state of emergency than what has been announced by the president.

This is of course justifiable given the potential adverse effect of the coronavirus if it were to reach a full outbreak.

The only chance that South Africa has to avoid a full catastrophe is to prevent the spread of the virus across the country.

Our health system will not be able to handle higher numbers of patients.  

Therefore, hard measures are purely justifiable and it is our responsibility to abide by the rules.

As a nation, we should understand that the battle against the spread of the virus is in our hands, and it is not the responsibility of government on its own.

Social distancing is not a good experience, yet it is a scientifically proven method through which the spread of the virus can be contained.

In some areas in Gauteng it was clear that people were not observing social distancing after initial measures were announced a few days ago. 

Failure of moderate measures such as social distancing and avoiding crowds have resulted in a lockdown, whereby people are going to be forced to stay at home. 

South Africans will certainly survive this trying time and will come out a stronger nation.

There is no doubt that South Africans have it in themselves to take the regulations seriously and go out of their way to ensure that they act responsibly in ensuring that the infection is not passed on to the most vulnerable in society. 

The coronavirus is not a disease for the rich, it knows no discrimination as it impacts nations indiscriminately as well.  

When it comes to demonstration of political leadership, President Ramaphosa even had to say it himself - that he was taking "decisive" action.

Addressing the media on lockdown measures, Ramaphosa was firm, resolute, and assuring at the same time.

Those are ingredients that have been in short supply since Ramaphosa's presidency began.

The outbreak of the coronavirus has shown that South African politics can function without the overbearing partisanship that we are used to.

Opposition parties have been at their best behaviour and have shown support for emergency measures that have been adopted by the government.

The business sector has also come to the party, understanding that part of the economy must be shut in order to save lives.

Labour unions have also muted their policy issues in support of harsher measures to curb the spread of the virus.  

This is the type of consensus that Ramaphosa's leadership could not garner, and the coronavirus crisis pandemic has emboldened the president to act decisively when called upon to do so.

There has never been a crisis moment such as what the world is experiencing with the coronavirus.

It is a crisis moment not only for the government, but also for communities who must now learn to live apart when they feel they need each other more than before.

The lockdown is a temporary measure that needs to be observed so that the situation can return to normal.

We must all play our part and show our selflessness in protecting each other from the spread of the virus.

Anything short of obeying the regulations is denial, which might be catastrophic for all.

This time it’s also about what you can do to protect others as well, not just yourself. 

- Dr Ralph Mathekga is a political analyst and author of When Zuma Goes and Ramaphosa's Turn.