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The coronavirus catastrophe and public outrage reach South Africa

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Reportage. The social tensions are running very high, and will only increase if the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the economic life of the nation cannot be limited.

written by Luca Manes


April 8, 2020

On March 15, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster, followed by a lockdown from March 26 lasting for at least 21 days. The latest figures are striking fear in the hearts of government leaders: there are now over 100 new people infected every day, with a total of about 1,500 cases and five deaths as of April 4. In order to limit the exponential growth, a strong focus is being placed on testing, with 47,000 tests already carried out and the plan to perform 30,000 daily. For this purpose, 67 mobile units are now active throughout the country, which has some of the highest levels of immune system depression on the continent, with as many as 7.1 million South Africans who are HIV-positive.

The lockdown was accompanied by draconian measures—including a ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes—and by wide-ranging militarization, particularly in the townships, where social distancing seems more difficult to achieve than anywhere else. It’s no coincidence that Ramaphosa has also deployed the army and private contractors to “assist” the forces of law and order, and ever since the first day of total lockdown, there have been countless episodes of violence and abuse against the population, with the all-too-frequent use of rubber bullets and water cannons. A thousand homeless persons were “rounded up” with hardly any formalities and locked up inside the old stadium of the capital, Pretoria—where there are now 10 people sharing each tent, which should not accommodate more than 2-3 people to comply with the anti-contagion regulations.

In a country where........

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