Editorial: Decisive leadership in Covid-19

Last week the Brazilian health minister warned that the country’s public health system was likely to collapse under the strain of the coronavirus by the end of April. Although this was fear-inducing to most people in Brazil, that country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, decided to take selfies with supporters outside the presidency. This, despite the fact that 20 members of his travelling party to the United States had tested positive for Covid-19 and the fact that he had been advised to self-quarantine. Bolsonaro has also berated governors who have enforced quarantines for being “excessive”.

“It’s an excessive dose of medicine — and too much medicine becomes poison,” Bolsonaro said, rejecting criticism of his administration’s response. “I’m the manager of the team and the team is playing very well, thank God.”

Further north, his partner in ignorance, United States President Donald Trump, has similarly downplayed the seriousness of the situation, from comparing the coronavirus to no worse than the flu to insisting that the restrictions currently in place will end by Easter.

In the United Kingdom, media reported that people in its ruling Conservative party saw a 2% death rate as acceptable because closing businesses would harm the economy. The country gambled on a tactic of allowing people to continue business as usual. Now, nearly 500 people have died as a result.  

As we’ve become all too accustomed to, science, truth and facts are seemingly no match for stupidity.

In contrast, since South Africa’s patient zero was identified on March 5, President Cyril Ramaphosa has addressed the nation and has led it decisively and with empathy at all the critical intervals. Having consulted with experts and his Cabinet colleagues, the president this week again changed the lives of all South Africans by announcing a lockdown. With very little time to address the legalities of it all, much less the practicalities, this government understands and constantly reiterates the one unequivocal truth about this virus — time is of the essence. We’ve seen countries such as Italy and Spain overtaking China, which has more than 20 times their populations, in terms of infections and mortality. To survive we have to learn quickly. Effective, decisive leadership has proven critical to containing the spread. In this, the reaction of the president and this government leaves little to be faulted.

Perhaps most importantly, Ramaphosa has conveyed the surety that we are together in this unprecedented time. That there will be pain, yes. That this too shall pass. As you read this, we pray that you are safely ensconced with your family or loved ones and that you stay safe. Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders