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South Africa at its best

Covid-19 has stoked our self-belief.
We are standing behind our president, showing a determination to succeed and a sense of optimism that we will. Image: Shutterstock

Something remarkable happened across South Africa on Monday evening. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the government was taking away a number of basic human rights, and he was widely applauded for it.

In announcing a 21-day lockdown, Ramaphosa denied our right to freedom of movement, our right to assembly, and the right to freedom of trade. It was a drastic decision, of the type that you don’t expect in a liberal democracy.

Yet the overwhelming response from South Africans has been appreciation, support, and even enthusiasm.

Social media has resonated with goodwill towards the president. His leadership has been praised, and his decisiveness welcomed. All the country’s political parties have stood with him, and business has given its backing.

The country’s attitude was summed up by Gerhard Papenfus, chief executive of the National Employers’ Association of SA, an organisation that has been largely critical of the state: “It cannot be expected of government to make perfect decisions,” he said. “What is expected is for government to act decisively; and that is what government did.”

It is striking feature of the country’s psyche that we react this way in a time of crisis. It takes this kind of extreme adversity for us to see the best in ourselves.

We’re not dead

For some time now the general narrative around the South African economy was that our prospects are dire, and we may even be helpless in the face of its continued slide. Some South Africans had even resigned themselves to its total collapse.

Today, our prospects are far worse. Twenty-one days of closed mines, shuttered factories and empty shops is unquestionably going to drive us into a deep recession.

Yet South Africans are more upbeat today than they were even 72 hours ago.

Now we see the opportunity to unite in action to protect the most vulnerable and keep our economy going at all costs. There is a determination to succeed, and a sense of optimism that we will, even though the challenge that we face now is far greater than it was before.

Looking up

Placing us under this extraordinary strain appears to have reminded us how resilient we are. We have rediscovered our self-confidence.

Perhaps that is because what we face now is an external threat. It’s easier to stand together when we’re combating something that we can identify and name, and which isn’t of our own making.

It is nevertheless extraordinary that we can move so quickly from despair to hope, and from anxiety to courage.

Suddenly, we all want to be South African again. We are expressing our pride in the country and its leadership on social media, and expressing our pity for friends and family living in the UK or the USA.

The personal hardship is not too much to bear because it is for the good of the country as a whole, and particularly the weak and the poor. We are enjoying a rare moment of national cohesion and unity.

Our intention is to be able to remember this time as a monumental challenge that we confronted and defeated. This is an opportunity to show off what we can do as South Africans, and we are determined to do it.

This too shall pass

Of course it would be wonderful if South Africa could always express this attitude and self-belief. That is, however, a romantic notion.

The crisis will pass, and our solidarity will drip away. We will retreat back into our disparate lives, and our discordant views.

One can only hope that it isn’t forgotten – that we can reflect on it as a time when we reminded ourselves just how much we are capable of.

It may be deeply ironic that we have to suffer the worst as South Africans to remind us of our best. But it is better than never being reminded of it at all.

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COMMENTS   23

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Think again. Given the vicious racism that is dished out to minorities in this country today and the ugly racial hatred that is spouted, with total impunity, at political rallies by so called leaders this coming together over Coronavirus does not even move the dial.

plus the masses ,starting with taxi drivers and unions, are ill(no) displined,rude,have no decency and no respect for law and order or persons or property arrogant ,brutal and entitled. so this lock down will not work.

Fully agreed. And anyway, ‘self-belief’ would only be apt once ‘we’ have mended the totally broken economy in the aftermath of this lockdown. But let us despair, because those who count don’t even know the meaning of that sentence.

Another feel good article, dripping with patriotism. But behind the scenes the masses are holding Corona Parties. Many many people do not understand ‘lock down’. There are many people not as educated as us regarding the threat we are facing.

They are not alone, even Trump did not understand this “corona thing” now the USA is the epicenter of the virus…

South Africa is the only country capable of making a lemon out of lemonade.

Zimbabwe?

Venezuela?

Swaziland?

Mozambique?

We’re in good company then…

As long as you have 51% BEE partners the government will help you, no matter what the demographics of your employees are!

That was fake news. The government does not require majority black ownership to offer support:

https://www.moneyweb.co.za/news/south-africa/all-small-businesses-may-apply-for-coronavirus-debt-relief-funding/

Its not “fake news” as you call it. It was an official draft that leaked onto social media then the state had to backtrack and clarify to save their bacon.

Patrick. Thanks for your article. Many may not have enjoyed it, but I did, and I’m sure, many others. Being positive is actually an EQ quality/requirement – especially to manage one’s stress! One’s choice can be whether you want to see that glass as half empty or not.

@Patrick

Best you go and look again, the initial draft might have been stopped at the last minute (after being written @ 19:16 on 23/03) from going live, but best you go read what the government said…

https://twitter.com/PresidencyZA/status/1242462194513719296

There was a response from the Dept of Small Business Development on Twitter saying it was a draft.

So, basically, they just got caught out, and are now back-tracking.

The mere fact that ‘they’ even considered the 51% black ownership hurts deeply. Very very deeply. But it don’t matter. The wedge have been driven in. Now we know what ‘they’ think of ‘us’.

ahhh nothing like a patriotic sentiment of the “rainbow nation” from the liberals. matter of time before your bubble is popped and reality slaps you in the face. you should all go pick flowers together.

Saw images of food truck getting ransacked yesterday.. Not SA at it’s best

Suddenly, we all want to be South African again. We are expressing our pride in the country and its leadership on social media, and expressing our pity for friends and family living in the UK or the USA.

You are just a few weeks behind…but trust PC to wave the rainbow flag whenever he can. He reminds me a bit of a primary school headboy, such a goody two shoes

Thanks for the article Patrick. Sorry you have to be bombarded by a bunch of negative boneheads who, I know will never have anything good to say, whatever the situation in South Africa, and I suspect long for the ” Good ol Days “

@oo07wazzy – Its not about having nothing good to say, but rather state the FACTS. (It is what it is) if like to sugar coat go and read feel good blog or re-watch the rugby world cup final & wave your flag outside with your castle in hand.

by the way what good do you have to say about the current state of affairs in SA, enlighten me?

Police looking for ex-SABC chair Ellen Tshabalala..

Not SA at its best when they cannot find the ex SABC Chair for three weeks. Nowhere.

Nice optimistic article. For now perhaps upbeat but after lockdown we will have:

1. More bailouts
2. Downgrade
3. Higher unemployment
4. Pillaging of pension funds

Enjoy the temporary optimism

You’re way too optimistic…

5. EWC

6. NHI

End of comments.

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