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COVID-19: The Truth inside Malta, Zanzibar and Madagascar

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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Ocean islands are, undoubtedly, favorite destinations for foreign investors and tourists primarily due to the diverse marine resources. These islands have geopolitical strategic relationship with the world. Amid the global spread of the coronavirus, it has become important to look at and analyze the extent of the disease and its impact, particularly, on the economy of the Republics of Malta, Zanzibar and Madagascar.

The theories and narratives are that islands may have few cases. Some other narratives that the islands may have huge numbers due to foreign visitors from infected countries and regions. It therefore becomes an important research focus to know the trends and to establish the possible effects on the economies and sociocultural lives of the population. Part of this study is presented here as follows: (i) The Islands and Coronavirus: An Overview, (ii) Geographical location and Appearance of Coronavirus (iii) Economic Impact of Coronavirus on these Islands and (iv) Current Lessons and Directions for the Future.

Overview of Coronavirus:

The coronavirus disease appeared first in 2019 in Wuhan city in China. The disease was, first identified in Wuhan and Hubei, both in China early December 2019. The original cause still unknown, it remains a puzzle and an enigma for the world scientific community. The disease symptoms include high body temperature with persistent dry cough and acute respiratory syndrome. Some medical researchers say it is a pneumonia-related disease.

Late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of the disease in the city of Wuhan, China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus – named COVID-19 by the WHO – have spread around the world. WHO declared the outbreak only on 30 January, and then recognized it as “pandemic” on 11 March 2020. 

Scientists and health experts have outlined various theories of its transmission. The basic transmission mechanisms of the coronavirus are the same worldwide. But the speed and pattern of spread definitely varies from country to country, urban to rural and place to place. Much also depends on cultural practices, traditional customs and social lifestyles. A densely populated township can have a different trajectory to a middle-class suburb or a village. The epidemic can spread differently among people on islands.

Geographical location and Appearance of Coronavirus:

The geographical location influence and spread of the coronavirus. The origin of coronavirus imported from Italy, Spain, France United Kingdom, Norway and Ireland. Later from the United States and North Africa. Reports from WHO, however, say Maghreb region (Algeria, Morocco and Egypt) has an increasing number of infections.

During the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic, the first COVID-19 case in Malta was an Italian 12-year-old girl on 7 March 2020. The girl and her family were in isolation, as required by those following the Maltese health authority’s guidelines who were in Italy or other highly infected countries. Later, both her parents were found positive as well. As of 30 April, Malta reported 444 confirmed cases, 165 recoveries and 3 deaths.

The small Mediterranean island, first, imposed restrictions on travel from Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Later closed completely air and sea entry points (except for cargo), and as of 13 March, mandatory quarantine was extended to travelers returning from any country. This was also published on the Malta Tourism Authority’s and Air Malta’s websites. Malta then lockdown the island. 

“The decision has been taken on the advice of the medical authorities because of the sharp increase in the spread of the virus, Some cases are local transmission, with the majority being foreigners and some linked to previous cluster and expected spread among immigrants living in crowded conditions,” Prime Minister Robert Abela told a press conference on 11 March.

Zanzibar, approximately 50 kilometers off Tanzania, is located in the Indian Ocean. It consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba Island. The total population is 1.4 million. Zanzibar is a paradise for tourists with sandy beaches and clear Indian Ocean water, as well as coral and limestone scarps, which allow for significant amounts of diving and snorkeling.

Considerable disparities exist in the standard of living for inhabitants of Pemba and Unguja, as well as the disparity between urban and rural populations. The average annual income is $250. More than half the population lives below the poverty line despite its vast marine resources.

The Union Republic has shut its borders, both the mainland of Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar have banned all tourist flights as a precautionary measure against the deadly COVID-19. According the Ministry of Health, the Zanzibar had 105 coronavirus, Tanzania reported 284 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 30 April, 2020.

Madagascar, located in southern Africa, belongs to the group of least developed countries, according to the United Nations. It is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU). In 2018, the population of Madagascar estimated at 26 million. Madagascar’s natural resources include a variety of agricultural and mineral products. Its major health infrastructure, in poor conditions, is similar to many African countries.

Many of its medical centers, dispensaries and hospitals are found throughout the island, although they are concentrated in urban areas and particularly in Antananarivo. Access to medical care remains beyond the reach of many Malagasy, especially in the rural areas, and many recourse to traditional healers. This poses a challenge to contain the COVID-19.

As at 30 April, Madagascar recorded 249 coronavirus cases since the epidemic began, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nevertheless, it did not report any coronavirus deaths. In addition, Comoros and Lesotho remain the only two African countries yet to record infections.

In a summarized report, Dr Antipas Massawe, a former lecturer from the Department of Chemical and Mining Engineering, University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, East Africa, acknowledged the narratives that these ocean islands are closely involved in international tourism and trading, and consequently could easily be exposed to the global pandemic. “Malta, as an island situated naturally between Europe and North Africa, would be the most vulnerable because it is surrounded by heavily COVID-19 infected Italy, Spain, Turkey, Iran and others,” Massawe noted in his report.

Economic and Social Impact:

All the three islands of Malta, Zanzibar and Madagascar depend mostly on travel industry. Malta is the most highly-developed among them. Malta and Zanzibar are stable politically while Madagascar is an unstable southern African country.

Ocean islands face an unprecedented crisis like any other country in the world. Governments and their central banks have put together mega-bailout packages. These ocean island governments around the world have also taken strict measures and adopted a range of tracking technologies to control the spread of the virus, as recommended by World Health Organization (WHO).

With 105 coronavirus leading to lockdown of tourism sector, Zanzibar’s economy has been hard hit by tourists’ fears about the pandemic, with reports of hotel cancellations after the government suspended direct flights from Italy and other destinations. 

At least 80% of Zanzibar’s annual foreign income comes from tourism but the government is looking at boosting investment in other sectors, such as fishing and agriculture, to mitigate the economic blow. Zanzibar’s scenery and rich historical culture bring close to 500,000 tourists to the island every year. With 105 coronavirus leading to lockdown of tourism sector, Zanzibar’s economy has been hard hit by tourists’ fears about the pandemic, with reports of hotel cancellations after the government suspended direct flights from Italy and other destinations.

Financing for at least 60% of the island’s budget comes from the tourism sector. “It’s going to affect us a lot because we really rely on tourism. The Italian market is a big market but in general, tourism is the backbone of Zanzibar, so we are going to lose a lot.” According to the words of Zanzibar’s Health Minister Hamad Rashid.

“We have to improve our agriculture system now using beautiful rains that we have, we have to improve our fishing industry so that we don’t depend on tourism anymore because of this risk which may happen anytime again,” added Hamad Rashid. The ministry has put in place measures to help prevent a coronavirus outbreak. Zanzibar has 192 primary health centers with staff trained to look for symptoms. The health centers do screening and track business people who travel broad, especially to China. It’s a small area, so it’s very easy to control.

Ecotourism and agriculture, key sectors of Madagascar, have suffered due to coronavirus. Agriculture employs more than 60% of the population. Madagascar is home to various unexploited plants found nowhere else on Earth. Many native plant species are used as herbal remedies for a variety of afflictions. As an innovative strategy to address the negative impact brought by the global pandemic, Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina gave the official launch to a Covid-Organics that could prevent and cure coronavirus local. He went further to brand Covid-Organics as export product, state orders to purchase the herbal medicine came from more than 10 African countries.

The drink, Covid-Organics, is derived from artemisia – a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment – and other indigenous herbs, according to the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research (IMRA). Its safety and effectiveness have not been assessed internationally, nor has any data from trials been published in peer-reviewed studies. Mainstream scientists have warned of the potential risk from untested herbal brews. The United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC), referring to claims for herbal or tea remedies, says: “There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by COVID-19. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume.”

Current Lessons and Directions for the Future:

As the global economy struggles towards stabilizing, it further present new platforms for complete reviews and development strategies.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs and Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-chair of the UN Secretary-General’s Eminent Group of Advocates for the SDGs wrote an article about Sustainable Development Goals during the pandemic under the title: “Amid the coronavirus pandemic, SDGs more relevant today than ever” published in April. In their joint article, they raised many important viewpoints. But for the propose of this discussion, three of them are indicated here:

*This pandemic has manifestly exposed the crisis in global health systems. And while it is severely undermining prospects for achieving global health by 2030, critically it is having direct far-reaching effects on all the other SDGs.

*As our world strives to deal with the challenges posed by the pandemic, we ultimately must seek to turn the crisis into an opportunity and ramp up actions necessary to achieve the SDGs. The spirit of solidarity, quick and robust action to defeat the virus that we are witnessing must be brought to bear on the implementation of the Goals. The quantum of stimulus and pecuniary compensation packages that is being made available to deal with the pandemic make it clear that, when it truly matters, the world has the resources to deal with pressing and existential challenges. The SDGs are one such challenge.

*But what we cannot afford to do even at these crucial times is to shift resources away from priority SDGs actions. The response to the pandemic cannot be de-linked from actions on the SDGs. Indeed, achieving the SDGs will put us on a solid foundation and a firm path to dealing with global health risks and emerging infectious diseases. Achieving SDGs Goal 3 will mean strengthening the capacity of countries for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.

Meanwhile, it would be necessary to concentrate, in the short-term, on specific steps to curb the pandemic and its spread and reduce the damage to a minimum, primarily the health and lives of people on these islands and importantly for Africa. It is necessary to analyze the lessons and forge long-term development plans.

“Given the raging coronavirus pandemic,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with the International Life magazine, April 17, “One of the lessons to be learnt from the current events will be a shift in the elites’ stances in many countries which will prompt them to cut wasteful expenditure. It is significant to boost local healthcare systems and create reserves. We can hope that following the pandemic a well-known rule saying that lightning does not hit the same place twice will prove quite true. However, the sheer scale of the current disaster will apparently make a drastic effect on governments’ political compass.”

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Future Perspectives of Russia-Africa Cooperation

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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While celebrating the Africa Day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to offer support and participate in the sustainable development processes in Africa. In a videoconference held May 28 with local and foreign media, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, highlighted the history behind the establishment of the Africa Day, which is observed as an annual holiday symbolizing the desire of the peoples of the African continent to peace, independence and unity.

According to her, “the close nature of friendly ties with African countries, the significant experience of mutually beneficial cooperation dates back to the early 1960s, when the Soviet Union unconditionally supported the desire of Africans to free themselves from colonial oppression. It provided them with substantial practical assistance in shaping the foundations of statehood, establishing national economies, and preparing civilian and military personnel.”

In recent years, however, African countries have been actively gaining weight and influence in international affairs, are increasingly participating in solving pressing issues of modern world politics and economics, she said.

The creation of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum was one of the appreciable results of the first Russia-Africa Summit held last year, Zakharova noted, and expressed hope that “the mechanism of partnership between Russia and the African continent created during the summit will allow to establish and broaden cooperation.”

Looking Back

Under the current circumstances, African leaders and business elites try, most importantly, to reflect on how far Africa has gone in building a unified identity and strides made in socio-economic development. These socio-economic developments in some individual countries were achieved by harnessing internal resources and through bilateral and multilateral relations with external countries and cooperation with development partners.

For example, Soviet Union and Africa had very close and, in many respects, allied relations with most of the African countries during the decolonization of Africa. For obvious reasons, the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991.

As a result, Russia has to struggle through many internal and external difficulties. For the past few years, it has been struggling to survive both the United States and European sanctions. Moscow still has a long way to catch-up with many other foreign players there in Africa.

Currently, Russia seems to have attained relative political and economic stability. “As we regained our statehood and control over the country, and the economy and the social sphere began to develop, Russian businesses began to look at promising projects abroad, and we began to return to Africa,” noted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov early September during his interaction with students and staff of Moscow State Institute for International Relations.

Emphasizing that the process of returning to Africa has been ongoing for the past 15 years, he further explained: “the return is now taking the form of resuming a very close political dialogue, which has always been at a strategic and friendly level, and now moving to a vigorous economic cooperation. But economic cooperation is not as far advanced as our political ties.” 

With this understanding, Dmitry Medvedev, while addressing the Russia-Africa Economic forum in July, also added his voice about strengthening cooperation in all fronts. “We must take advantage of all things without fail. It is also important that we implement as many projects as possible, that encompass new venues and, of course, new countries,” he said.

In addition, Medvedev stressed: “It is important to have a sincere desire. Russia and African countries now have this sincere desire. We simply need to know each other better and be more open to one another. I am sure all of us will succeed if we work this way. Even if some things seem impossible, this situation persists only until it is accomplished. It was Nelson Mandela who made this absolutely true statement.”

Acknowledging undoubtedly that Africa has become a new world center for global development, Russian legislators at the State Duma (the lower chamber) have advocated for supporting business and economic cooperation with Africa. Thus as a step forward, State Duma has established relations with African parliaments.

During an instant meeting held with the Ambassadors of African countries in the Russian Federation, Viacheslav Volodin, the Chairman of the State Duma, remarked: “We propose to move from intentions to concrete steps. Our people will better understand each other through parliamentary relations.” The full transcript is available on the official website.

Moving Forward

On April 29, Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a powerful Russian NGO that focuses on foreign policy, held an online conference with participation of experts on Africa.  Chairing the online discussion, Igor Ivanov, former Foreign Affairs Minister and now RIAC President, made an opening speech. He pointed out that Russia’s task in Africa is to present a strategy and define priorities with the countries of the continent, build on the decisions of the first Russia-Africa Summit.

On the development of cooperation between Russia and African countries, Igor Ivanov pointed out a few steps here: “Russia’s task is to prevent a rollback in relations with African countries. It is necessary to use the momentum set by the first Russia-Africa Summit. First of all, it is necessary for Russia to define explicitly its priorities: why are we returning to Africa? Just to make money, strengthen our international presence, help African countries or to participate in the formation of the new world order together with the African countries? Some general statements of a fundamental nature were made at the first Summit, now it is necessary to move from general statements to specificity.”

Sergey Lavrov, long ago, asked for more substantive dialogue on Russia-Africa issues, and chart ways for effective cooperation. In an interview with the Hommes d’Afrique, he stressed “time is needed to solve all those issues, but it could start with experts’ meetings, say, within the framework of the St Petersburg Economic Forum or the Valdai forum, and other events where business leaders of both countries participate.”

Experts from the think-tank Valdai Discussion Club, academic researchers from the Institute for African Studies and independent policy observers have noted Russia’s policy, its current achievements and emerging economic opportunities and possibilities for partnerships in Africa. Quite interestingly, majority of them acknowledged the need for Russia to be more prominent as it should be and work more consistently to achieve its strategic goals, – comparing and citing largely unfulfilled pledges over the years.

Established in 2004, it’s (the club) primary goal is to promote dialogue between Russia and the rest of the world. It hosted an expert discussion titled “Russia’s Return to Africa: Interests, Challenges, Prospects” with participation of experts on Africa. Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Africa Department were present.

“I would like to begin my speech with the words of Foreign Minister (Sergey Lavrov), who said, referring to the current situation: ‘No more fairy tales,’” joked Oleg Ozerov from the Africa Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. “For us, Africa is not a terra incognita: the USSR actively worked there, having diplomatic relations with 35 countries. In general, there are no turns, reversals or zigzags in our policy. There is consistent development of relations with Africa. ”

Over the past few years, contacts between Russia and Africa have expanded, and at the same time, this was also due to the African countries’ interest in Russia, he added. Nevertheless, Oleg Ozerov is now Ambassador-at-Large with the key responsibility for expediting work on the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum created at the initiative of African participants during Sochi summit.

As Head of the Secretariat, the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, his task is to prepare for the second Russia-Africa summit in 2022 in pursuance of the agreements, achieved during the first Russia-Africa summit held on October 23-24 in Sochi. The Secretariat of the Forum will also organize annual political consultations of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the troika of the African Union.

In 2010-2017, Ozerov served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Saudi Arabia, concurrently from 2011-2017, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

In conclusion, worth to say Russia sees Africa as a key potential partner in the vision for a multipolar world order, and for now, it is well-known that strengthening ties with African countries is among Russia’s foreign policy priorities. But, much has to be done to change image, perceptions and the old narratives.

The symbolic Russia-Africa Summit was the result of President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin authorities’ progressive steps taken to move toward a new phase in consolidating political and economic ties broadly at the state levels with Africa. The final declaration, joint declaration, seeks to consolidate the results of the summit. It has undoubtedly reaffirmed the goals of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Visualising Ethiopia’s Economic Leadership (and Challenges) in the Horn of Africa

Bhaso Ndzendze

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image: Wikimedia Commons

The Horn of Africa has historically been one of the world’s most unstable regions, with internal strife, secessionism, interstate war, terrorism and piracy dominating the region for the latter half of the twentieth century, and the early years of the twenty-first. Things have changed in more recent times, however. But in recent years, the pattern which perhaps best defines the region today is uneven economic growth, and thus cause for cautious optimism.

This is demonstrated by the five charts below, tracing the GDPs, GDP growths, unemployment rates, different levels of mobile phone access, and estimated GDP growth for 2020 (in the wake of COVID-19) of the four countries in the region; Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Particularly noticeable is not only Ethiopia’s size but also the rate of its growth when compared to its neighbours, though the country has several points of vulnerability.

Economic Size

The first chart shows the enormous gap between Ethiopia and the other three countries that neighbour it. Leveraging on its population (of more than 108 million people), its physical size and relative stability since the 1990s, the country has been able to grow despite its landlocked status, history of civil war, famines, ethnic tensions, and significant lack of mineral resources. Successfully diverting its exports to the port of Djibouti after the war with Eritrea in 1998, the country’s total GDP is about eight times the other countries in the region combined. Somalia, the state with the second-largest GDP, has a GDP 18 times smaller than Ethiopia’s. This gap is only set to expand, given the differences in GDP growth visualised in the second chart.

GDP Growth

In terms of GDP growth, the whole region has registered considerable amounts, with three of the fastest-growing countries (Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti) registering more than 7% in GDP growth per annum. Ethiopia is present here as well, being the fastest-growing economy in 2019. Moreover, growing from a comparatively higher base ($91.1 billion compared to Djibouti’s $2.9billion, Eritrea’s $2.6billion and Somalia’s $4.7billion), the country’s growth is unparalleled in real comparative terms.

Employment

Ethiopia also observes the lowest unemployment rate in the region, with less than 2% of its workforce out of employment. The principal sources of employment are agriculture (72.7%), followed by services (19.9%) and industry (7.4%). The country has been on an industrialising spree, with industrial parks as the principal strategy of attracting foreign direct investment geared towards light manufacturing of textiles, automobiles, and metals processing. Like most countries in the early stages of economic development, however, the country’s wages are still quite low. Nevertheless, if the trajectory of similar countries (most notably China) is anything to go by (and all other things being equal), this is set to transform over the next number of decades as the country ascends to middle-income status. Moreover, the low-wage factor has been one of the country’s major points of FDI attraction.

Connectivity

Mobile phone access in Ethiopia is also the strongest in the region, with more than 56% of its population having at least one mobile phone. The country’s telecommunication industry is dominated by Ethio Telecom, the government-operated monopoly.

Post-COVID-19 Economies

The effects of COVID-19 are unclear, but they will short-circuit many developing countries’ economies. IMF revised estimates place the region’s prospects quite favourably nonetheless, with Eritrea estimated to grow by 7.9%, followed by Ethiopia and Somalia at 3.2%, and 1.3%.

For all its strengths, however, Ethiopia is also marked by some vulnerabilities from outside as well as within. Firstly, the country’s GDP per capita of $953 is dwarfed by Djibouti’s $2,787, although it still outranks Eritrea ($332) and Somalia ($348).Secondly, most of its trade is not with its neighbours. While most of its exports are through Djibouti, the country has almost no interdependence with Eritrea and Somalia. This means most of its growth and the growths of its neighbours are not intertwined, despite the impetus for regional integration. Indeed, the country has previously gone to war with two of its neighbours – Somalia and Eritrea – over disputed territory. With talks over the disputed Badme region came the prospect of the port of Massawa, however. These leaves open the prospect that the country’s channels of export will be further enhanced, especially its noticeable industrial base in its north. However, reports of local communities on preventing soldiers from retreating (and thus re-opening the border) indicate that the path to interdependence will require trust-building and may perhaps not be easily divorced from domestic politics of either side. Ethiopia’s goal of energy self-sufficiency in electrification through the waters of the Blue Nile (which commences in Ethiopia’s Lake Tana) are also cause for tense relations with Egypt, with the timeframe of the filling-up of the dam being a particular bone of contention. Given these tensions, it is sensible that most of the work with which the regional body, IGAD, is preoccupied with peacebuilding in Somalia more than with economic issues.

COVID-19 has also put on hold one of the most anticipated elections in recent Ethiopian political history. The country’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, who took over an uncompleted term of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn, is seeking to obtain a fresh mandate of his own. Not only does the election mark the first electoral run of the newly formed Prosperity Party, formed after the consolidation of the previous coalition of ethnic-based parties (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), but also some economic policies. Importantly, however, the northern-based Tigray People’s Liberation Front has not taken part in the merger. The next election will, therefore, be an implicative one for Ethiopia’s future growth and future role in the region.

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South Africa: Returning tostatism?

Klaus Kotzé

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The South African state of disaster has been evolving since its declaration on March 15th. Following local and global acclaim for its responsive, science-based approach, the government has come under increased scrutiny for its turn towards command and control. Following the extended 35-day lockdown, President Ramaphosa announced a staged relaxation which paradoxically included strict limitations which were not part of the preceding ‘hard’ lockdown. For the first time in its democratic history, South Africa is under a nightly curfew. While the global health pandemic associated with COVID-19 may be novel, the government’s response appears awfully familiar. Different as the situations may be, to understand the present one should turn to past.

Since 1994, South Africa has abided the post-Cold War international order to pave its path along Western liberal norms. The newly elected liberation party assumed the power of government at a time when it had little choice but to accede to these prevailing internationalist truths. It could either stand secure inside a global arrangement of states which ensured wealth and privilege along mandated rules and lines of thought or it could perilously go at it alone.

Based on hegemonic international practices and due on the injustices and vagaries of country’s brutalized past, the ANC sought to salvage the state it inherited in accordance with the international system; it gave up an element of sovereign independence, chose to reconfigure its revolutionary strategy and became a casualty of its time by acquiescing to fantastical end of history persuasions. South Africa chose indirect governance over direct government.

This approach to power is captured in the dogma of good governance, the conformity to a set of prescribed indicators of administrative best practice; a managerial approach to political authority. Good governance does not interrogate peculiarities, nor is it based on the lay of the land. Instead, it accedes to specific standards. Having never executed power, the ANC alliance assumed leadership by following.

Through efforts to advance the rights-based democratic ideals which gave expression to the Constitution, it pursued development along international governance norms. The constitutive initial phase of democracy, characterized by consultation, policy formulation and institutional consolidation adhered to this dogma. Government’s aspirational approach aligned to the aspirational character of the new Constitution. The modalities of good governance were, however, as foreign to the ANC as they were to South Africa. In according international norms, the history of the state was suppressed.

When Nelson Mandela assented to the presidency, a new nation was not birthed. The South African state remained; it was given another life. This is the reason the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) rebuffed Fw de Klerk’s presence at the SONA earlier this year. This was no argumentum ad hominem.It was a politically astute move to delegitimate the government. It charged the ANC with ruling over the state of De Klerk. By rejecting the government’s legitimacy, its authority over law and order, the EFF seeks to bring down the edifice upon which government rests. Potentially portending a move toward coup d’etat, it presciently recalls the architecture and history of the state. While the ANC government prefers to limit the debate about the history of the state, the EFF critically reminds South Africans of their history. It invokes an awakening to the history of the state.

To accurately perceive the frenzied national condition, South Africa needs to shed the veil of ignorance that conceals the history of the state.

The late 1970s saw the introduction of a total national strategy that was legitimised by what the state labelled a total onslaught; today benignly referred to as the ‘struggle’. These analogous approaches shaped the national order which emerged in 1994. The total national strategy as laid out in the 1977 White Paper on Defence called for a “comprehensive plan to utilize all the means available to a state… A total national strategy is, therefore, not confined to a particular sphere, but applicable at all levels and to all functions of the state structure”.

As was the case under the total strategy, today’s concern is security. Security oriented government by decree is being justified in the fight against the nebulous COVID-19.

The ominous rise of the ambiguous National Coronavirus Command Council begs serious questions. It reminds of how under the total national strategy, power moved from cabinet to be concentrated into the State Security Council and later the National Security Management System. Vigilance must persist against decreed rule by selective committees.

Whereas the pragmatic Prime Minister PW Botha essentially portrayed the role of a crisis manager, today the similarly astute administrator Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, regarded by some as a sort of Prime Minister, rules by regulation. Botha was obsessed with security; to maintain law and order Botha insisted upon an expanded militarisation despite the government recognition that there was no military solution. Today command and control again reign supreme. Reminiscent of the 1980s, the defence force is again (mainly) wielding sjamboks in townships. With more than 70 000 troops deployed to maintain law and order, South Africa is clearly no longer in the domain of governance, it has returned to statist government. The state is again seeing a total strategy whereby the resources of war are mobilised at political and economic levels. What really is the perceived threat upon which government’s strategy is based? Is the defence force called upon because the state is fearful of its ability to maintain trust and legitimacy? Is it facing a potential loss in law and order? Though the virus is new, South Africa has been here before.

The ongoing state of exception presents a Manichean situation whereby claiming one’s rights, one necessarily stands outside the law. The threat of a normalised state of exception isthe temporary if not permanent loss of freedom. In the words of famed American whistle-blower, Edward Snowden: “a virus is harmful, but the destruction of rights is fatal”. 

South Africa’s bewilderment has largely been based on the perception that there is no precedent to demonstrable state control. COVID19 may be novel, but limitation, South African government by regulation, is not. There is an urgent need to wake up to history, to view the past in order to discern the present. While the ANC government has consulted widely and the state of exception is administered under the relevant Act, any limitation of rights and privileges must be challenged. Learning from the past, South Africans must be cautious of securocrats’ use of security as a central means of government.

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