Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Editorial: Covid-19 vs ANC palace politics

Not to tempt fate, but the long-forecast third wave in the Covid-19 pandemic has so far not come to pass. Models have shifted, and have had to be recalibrated as the expected rise in case numbers after our April holidays didn’t materialise. As relieved as we all are, there’s a growing sense that there’s a bit of complacency brewing in the response to the virus that has led to the deaths of more than 54 500 South Africans.

How else does one explain the fact that while the rest of the world, including our neighbouring countries Botswana and Zimbabwe, have a well advanced vaccine programme, ours remains frustratingly at its nascent stage? To date, Africa’s most industrialised nation has only vaccinated some 353 000 healthcare workers in the first phase against a target of 1.25-million people. 

We know some of the delays to our vaccination programme weren’t merely as a result of poor state capacity, but rather due to advice from South Africa’s scientific community on both the AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines. But as we head to 17 May, earmarked as the start of the second phase of what has so far been an uninspiring vaccination roll-out, our first line of defence against the pandemic remains largely as vulnerable as they were last year. 

In this phase, the target is 2.5-million essential workers, five-million people over the age of 60 and eight‑million people over the age of 18 and with comorbidities. How confident can any of us be?

This is especially true when you consider the political theatre unfolding in the governing ANC at this moment. Over the weekend, the party heads to yet another one of its national executive committee meetings where we’ll all stand enthralled at the spectacle of watching either its continued implosion or its renewal, depending where you stand on the equation. 

As they attend the meeting either virtually or in person, the main area of interest will be the fate of suspended secretary general Ace Magashule, after he sent out his own tantrum-filled letter of suspension to the party president, Cyril Ramaphosa. As we’ve all been beholden to, or rather held hostage by, this party’s internal ructions over the past decade and more, it’s fair to guess most South Africans will be just as spellbound by the events at St George’s Hotel in Irene.

One has to wonder just how much time will be spent discussing what has a much deeper bearing on the future of this country than the increasingly embarrassing tenure of the ANC’s 16th secretary general, namely the war on Covid-19. It may very well be quiet on that front at the moment, but we can’t be complacent. India should be warning enough.

Our way of life is still far from finding its “new normal” and we aren’t getting any closer, while palace politics once again take centre stage as we head to October’s local elections.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Kenya’s beach boys fall into sex tourism, trafficking

In the face of their families’ poverty, young men, persuaded by the prospect of wealth or education, travel to Europe with their older female sponsors only to be trafficked for sex

High court reinstates Umgeni Water board

The high court has ruled that the dissolution of the water entity’s board by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was unfair and unprocedural

Mkhize throws the book at the Special Investigating Unit

It’s a long shot at political redemption for the former health minister and, more pressingly, a bid to avert criminal charges

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…