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SA’s response to Covid-19 should be war-like

Co-ordinated and comprehensive.
Averting a healthcare disaster and defending the economy are the two clear objectives. Image: Moneyweb

As South Africa enters its first day of a 21-day nationwide lockdown, it is stepping into a great number of unknowns. Nothing like this has ever been implemented before, and how deep and how lasting its effects will be cannot be fully foreseen.

Read: Surviving lockdown

Shutting down large parts of the economy for three weeks comes with enormous risks. However, government has decided that the risks to the health of the country’s citizens are greater.

“We had to do something to avoid an extreme pandemic that would overwhelm the health services and create massive issues,” says Hendrik du Toit, CEO of Ninety One (previously Investec Asset Management). “I think the president was right to do it before peak infection, and not after the fact like some countries have done.”

First, do no harm

However, what South Africa cannot afford to do is underestimate the economic and social crisis this has the potential to create.

“The question is: can you keep the economy alive while avoiding a significant number of deaths?” asks Du Toit. “In a poor country like ours, how do you go about it?

“If we save a few thousand lives, but we’ve destroyed an equal number of businesses and negatively impacted the livelihoods of thousands of younger people, we will have created risks to social stability that we haven’t even started to comprehend,” he adds.

A workable and effective economic intervention therefore has to be prioritised as much as the healthcare intervention. And just as the most vulnerable members of society have to be protected from Covid-19, they also need to be the primary beneficiaries of financial support.

“My concern is that we could struggle to reach the people who have already been excluded from the economy,” says Du Toit. “We need genuine helicopter money in people’s pockets – we need for people who have lost their jobs to be compensated, and for businesses to be kept open.

“The state alone can’t do this,” he emphasises. “The coordination between government and the private sector is going to be key.”

War-like effort

It is encouraging that there are already signs that there is willingness to work together. The pledges of R1 billion each from the Rupert and Oppenheimer families to help small businesses and their employees is significant. It is, however, no more than a first step.

“The solidarity fund is also a meaningful and great proposal, but it’s too small on its own,” says Du Toit. “You have to take the bazookas out here.”

Listen to Nompu Siziba’s interview with Small Business Institute CEO John Dludlu:

He believes the private sector will have to be engaged in meaningful and innovative ways to support the public effort to both avert a healthcare disaster and defend the economy.

“We need a war-like effort,” Du Toit argues.

As an example, he cites how engineers at Ferrari and McLaren are providing expertise to help with the rapid production of ventilators in Italy and the UK. Instead of building racing cars, they are dedicating their expertise to the national effort.

Irish Distillers, the company behind brands such as Jameson, is now producing hand sanitiser and providing a free supply to the Health Service Executive of Ireland. Luxury goods giant LVMH is doing the same, donating hand sanitiser gels to hospitals across France.

“In South Africa, we need to ask how do we do certain things, and who is good at what,” Du Toit argues. “Who is best at distributing cash to ordinary people, for instance? It would be banks with big branch networks like Capitec or Absa. We need to use the existing infrastructure of institutions to do what we need to do, but use government backing.”

Reaction speed

It is vital that South Africa moves quickly to do this because, as Du Toit points out, the countries that have moved fastest have dealt with Covid-19 the best.

“This should not just be a case for state intervention,” he argues. “It should but be about combined action between various constituencies in society.”

This includes local, provincial and national government, civil society, and large and small businesses.

“The command and control centre that has started to take shape needs to be fully galvanised,” Du Toit says. “The government must ask companies and institutions to provide people and expertise.

“If we just sit here and wait for it, too many businesses will go the wall.”

Critically, President Cyril Ramaphosa has to be willing to delegate tasks to groupings other than central government.

“Because if you are going to feed everything through cabinet, you are not going to get it done,” Du Toit says. “He has to create trusted groups to make things happen.”

If South Africa gets this right, the country could look back on this as a period of renewal.

As Du Toit says: “If we have achieved two things – clear Ramaphosa leadership and co-operation between social actors, we would have come out stronger than we went in, even if the economy would have been down and out for a few months.”

Read: South Africa at its best

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Third world country and a lack of planning and ability to implement. Plenty of nice suits and hats. The massess have voted, let them reap the rewards.

Well it is not like the first world is handling this crisis any better. Spain is already choosing who to treat and who to let die.

Spain is in a very different situation than us, facing very different challenges and urgencies.

All good suggestions. Poor execution and implementation.

From a great article on DM,

“For 21 days, please stay sober,” he told about 30 million of-drinking-age adult human beings.

These autocrats manque derive their power from Regulation 11E of the lockdown rules, that states: “No person is entitled to compensation for any loss or damage arising out of any bona fide act or omission by an enforcement officer under these regulations.”

In other words, when the skop, skiet and dondering begins, you’re on your own.

The booze ban is just a hint of how creepy puritanical authoritarianism can become during a crisis. And while I acknowledge that this Covid-19 thing is a bastard, the absolute idiocy of these regulations does nothing to inspire confidence. Put it this way: the South African government has effectively decided, without consultation, to wean its population off alcohol (and nicotine) cold turkey, a decision that could end up killing more people than the virus it hopes to mitigate. Unmanaged cessation of alcohol consumption can result in death, which is just one obvious shortfall. The other is that people will either end up brewing their own nuclear-powered mampoer, and/or illegal liquor sellers will take hold of the market.

Meanwhile, the cigarette Mafia will be enjoying a halcyon age. (If you follow the news, you’ll know that ciggie smuggling kingpins enjoy close relationships with powerful politicians.) Add to this the fact that there is no support for the informal sector, on which 70% of South Africans depend, and it’s like the government is trying to create the perfect conditions for organised crime to flourish.

Agreed.

Being able to see the N2 South of Durban from home I was amazed at the amount of traffic this morning. Almost like nothing changed. If that is the amount of people in essencial industries this whole lockdown is a waste of time.

Just a few people have to pay the price and there will be no benefit.

Where is the “though talking” leaders now? Hahaaa.

Why alcohol and cigarettes are not allowed is a mystery. It just shows the level of intelligence of people that made these rules.

Its like the population has to be punished for something that has not even started yet. Did you hear the tone of voice?

As usual and typical of anything the ANC does it will be a total disaster.

Ice rinks should be essential services. Are there any left in this country?

“Why alcohol and cigarettes are not allowed is a mystery.”

I think it’s not a mystery. This action is not about solving any problem or delivering any cure. It’s about control and intimidation. It’s about “We’ll show you whose in charge here, what we can do, and that you can’t do anything about it.”

Agree. I am not a smoker, but what Notwarren correctly calls puritanical, also smacks of the communist’s desire for complete control of the population. What’s next? Will Herr Kommissar Cele also ban chocolate sales? A Bar One is full of sugar, after all, which the communist regime also has a problem with.

And although I’m not religious either, next they will ban praying in the safety of your home, in their Stalin-like zeal, lest the virus gets you while you’re talking to God.

But here’s the problem for the wannabe Stalins in the ANC regime: a revolution devours its children. Its own voting fodder, those in informal settlements, cannot be isolated, controlled or forced not to drink or smoke. A revolt from that quarter is only weeks away.

Banning sale of alcohol and tobacco simply opens the way to illegal suppliers of these commodities. And damages the legitimate suppliers.

I have been encouraged by Ramaphosa’s statesmanship in this crisis but this optimism has been dissipated by his band of helpers and their bumbling statements. Politicians step back and let the experts in the business and medical world take over. this is not the time to take moralistic stands about things like tobacco and alcohol. the Minister with the hat successfully managed to create yet another day of panic buying yesterday. we know full well that products like this will quickly go into the hands of black marketeers which here equates to government cronies. Government, we have no reason to trust either your competence or honesty, nows your chance to prove us wrong.
there’s a chance here to fix some of the crumbling infrastructure much of which can be done with unskilled labor. Get money flowing into the economy and encourage business innovation.

Du Toit mentions brand companies coming to the fore…

These companies will not be operating production for nothing. They know their terms will be honored and they will get paid by the respective states mentioned…

The inherent mind set in the RSA government is not to pay suppliers, if suppliers are not owned by some MEC

So why could Du Toit expect companies here too

Why does anybody go to work in the first place? Because no government has found another way of putting food on our tables in a sustainable way. We exchange labour for food with money as the means of exchange.

When officials without any knowledge of economics, officials who receive a monthly salary from the state, officials who have no skin in the game, ban the trade in labour for food, where will the food come from? The impact on the economy, and the eventual impact on lives lost, will be a multiple of the human cost of the covid-19 disease.

How do you count the number of lives lost to AIDS, TB, the flue virus, pneumonia etc that results from the actions aimed at curbing the covid-19 virus? Economic contraction leads to more unemployment, more malnutrition, more compromised immune systems, more substance abuse, a higher suicide rate, and a contraction in the specialization of labour. The contraction in the specialization of labour leads to a further decline in economic activity, that destroys the specialization of labour further. A lockdown kickstarts this process of economic destruction that will cause many deaths.

The government merely changed a run on the hospitals for a run on the banks. They swopped covid-19 deaths for more deaths due to Aids, TB, pneumonia, substance abuse, suicide and diabetes. But they won’t be able to connect the dots.

Absolutely. SA is Ground Zero for AIDS and TB. As it is, 172 people per day die of TB, which is close on 60000 people per year. In these 21 days, about 3500 people will die of TB, and after the 21 days, far more people will have become destitute and unable to buy proper food, which will increase these 172 deaths per day to God only knows what level. From the start, I have been extremely skeptical about the so-called “good leadership” that our Fearless Great Leader has displayed. The treatment will turn out to be far worse than the disease, as Sensei points out.

You forgot one of the biggest killer industries in SA, the taxi industry.

Well said Sensei! Very little will be achieved with this lock-down other than suffocating an economy already in ICU.

When the 21d period draws to a close, the infections/deaths will be off the scale. Simply because my fellow countrymen’s culture allows zero space for any personal discipline…..rules have little impact on “the people’.

SA’s response to the gang warfare on the Cape Flats was ‘warlike’? The army and police have achieved nothing against gangsterism. What makes them think they will control a country wide lock down?

Chris they did manage to stop the publication of the killing stats – so everyone happy !!!!

DA has lost control of Cape Town’s streets and were begging the Gvt (army) to intervene…

But yeah, Cape Town remains the gangster & murder capital of the World still…

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.

Anyone who didn’t immediately feel deeply uneasy about all the rights and freedoms we are giving up to stave off what appears to be a mild flu for most, can only surely, still be under the illusion that our pernicious non-compunct law makers and executors are there for us, for our good.
What are we giving up? The entire nation is now under house arrest. Winnie Mandela must be having a party in her grave.
We can never forget that our rulers are ingrained gangsters, thieves and malcreants. They are wolves feeding off us and the abundance South Africa has to offer, at the expense of the people.
When this is all over, when there is nothing left. They will foist socialism onto us. A net to assuage the loss, and to damper the brilliant and more capable, so that never, never and never again will the dull and dim be done in and done out by people with capacity.

Lockdown in informal settlements will not work- we’re gonna see sparks fly.

Africa has a natural ingrained sense of defiance not compliance. Just look at the images of youths partying in Khayalitsha and Durban Beach front.

SA’s response to ANCcorruption should be more war-like

The virus will fade, the communism will remain, stay vigilant

“The question is: can you keep the economy alive while avoiding a significant number of deaths?” asks Du Toit. “In a poor country like ours, how do you go about it?

“If we save a few thousand lives, but we’ve destroyed an equal number of businesses and negatively impacted the livelihoods of thousands of younger people, we will have created risks to social stability that we haven’t even started to comprehend,” he adds.

This is the conundrum. The question I asked from the beginning, to much aggravation from the majority of people who heard me asking it. What happens if we get a new outbreak of a new virus next year? We cannot stop the world economy in its tracks every year to save less than 5% of those that get infected, and spread misery, hunger and hopelessness to several billion people due to the economic fallout. China will have to come to the party and start enforcing hygene standards of the first world to their food markets.
Also, we need more funding for medical research (DT disbanded his presidential pandemic team more than a year ago) and respect intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies. Hold them to account, yes, but don’t undermine their viability. They need money (like everybody else) to fund research into new medicine.

Loads of people doing panic buying today.

Yes, but don’t forget that a WAR costs mega MONEY!!

End of comments.

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