Governance implications of the Malawi election June 2020 rerun

Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera was declared winner of the June 2020 presidential election re-run with 58.75 percent of the vote according to the electoral commission. PHOTO GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP

Late on Saturday 27 June, 2020, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson, Justice Chifundo Kachale, formally announced the election results. Dr Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had won the election with 58.57% of the vote. Chakwera received 2.6 million votes, while incumbent President Arthur Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) received 1.75 million votes (39.4%). The voter turnout was 64.8%. This election comes after a year-long battle for the independence of Malawi’s democratic institutions, and should be seen as an important milestone in the movement towards democratic consolidation on the continent. It also provides a host of potential lessons for both policymakers and activists at the local, regional, and international level, on how to best support developing nations in times of constitutional crisis.

Malawi’s Constitutional Court had struck down the previous election results, citing widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid on ballots. The court was harshly critical of the manner in which the MEC handled the May 2019 election, finding the former Chairperson, Jane Ansah, and her commissioners incompetent. The election results triggered months of nationwide protests, calling for new elections and demanding Ansah’s removal. Mutharika responded by appointing Justice Kachale, who vowed the rerun election would be free, fair and credible.

The voter turnout in May 2019 was 77.4%. Mutharika won 38.57% of the vote, against Chakwera’s 35.41%. Chakwera and his Vice President, Dr Saulos Chilima (United Transformation Movement), together achieved more than they did individually in the previous election when they both stood as independent candidates, thus validating their decision to run on the same ballot ticket. Both Chakwera and Mutharika had allied with other parties. Chakwera’s alliance with Chilima was supported by most other opposition parties and was called Tonse Alliance (“all of us” in the local Chichewa language). Mutharika had formed an alliance with Atupele Muluzi (United Democratic Front). The election result divides the country into two with the MCP-UTM alliance gaining a majority in all districts of the northern and central provinces, while the DPP-UDF alliance gained a majority in all districts of the southern province.

In his official announcement, Justice Kachale was careful to clarify that all complaints they had received were handled at the local level of election staff at the polling stations, with the exception of one complaint, which had to be elevated to the national level. The MEC stated it had received dozens of complaints in the days following the election, most from the outgoing DPP government. Their complaints related to instances of violence against party representatives and safety concerns at some of the polling stations. The complaints of violence were considered criminal, and were dispatched to the police for further investigation. The complaints concerning security for party representatives at the polling stations were rejected, citing that security arrangements had been well taken care of by the military and the police.

Outgoing President Mutharika addressed the nation on Saturday afternoon where he implicitly accepted his defeat. However, this did not stop him from characterising the rerun as the worst election in Malawi’s history before urging the people to accept the results of the MEC and the country to move on as one Malawi and one people.

Implications

The impact of this election process, both on the region and the continent, should not be downplayed.

It is only the second time on the continent where the judiciary has overturned a presidential election and called for a fresh election. The first was in Kenya in 2017, but saw the opposition boycotting the rerun election. In Malawi, there was full participation of all political parties. Doubts were raised about the timing of the rerun election, and lack of international assistance and international observers. Contrary to these doubts,  the rerun election process appears to have been largely positive, with the MEC ensuring transparency and verification, thus legitimising the outcome.

While there were no international observers present, invitations had been sent but could not be honoured due to tight time constraints. Travel restrictions, quarantine rules and health considerations in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the non-attendance of international observers. However, embassies, the UN and international organisations with a presence in the country were accredited as observers. There were also national election observers from about 20 different local stakeholders, including civil society organisations, ecclesiastical organisations, human rights organisations and academia. Most were in agreement that the rerun election process and results were legitimate.

Lessons learned

An important lesson to be taken from this election process is the manner in which the Malawians adopted a “home-grown ownership” of this election process. While the international community had raised concerns about the country’s ability to hold elections in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner, Malawi proved that it could be done successfully. Malawi should be commended for the manner, under very trying circumstances, in which it conducted a credible rerun election.

A major positive long-term effect that the “legal miracle” relating to this rerun election process will have on the region will be the imbedding of the idea that it is possible to trust the judiciary to be professional and independent. An important legal precedent has been set that should find some footing in courts across the region. This important precedent, overriding the May 2019 election results, may act as a catalyst to embolden regional activists, lawyers and democracy advocates in other countries in dealing with issues of poor governance and instances of perceived electoral fraud. The outcome of the court judgment may be indicative of the further consolidation of democracy and good governance in Malawi.

A further lesson from Malawi’s election rerun relates to the finalisation of election reports produced by international observer teams. In hindsight, their observation processes can be criticised as most observers compile their reports based on the formal framework of the election, including the pre- and post-election periods. However, the major contestation arose from the counting process itself. Once the results had been tallied, most observers had either left the country or completed their deployment and had submitted their election observation reports. As a result, the endorsing election observation reports unwittingly created the misconception that the election was held in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner and was used as a justification by Mutharika to endorse his flawed election victory. Thus, it may be argued, the international election observers may have contributed to the polarised situation that followed. With regards to upcoming elections in the region, election observer missions should study the Malawian case carefully to gather important lessons for future election observer deployments.

Dr Craig Moffat is Head of Programme: Governance Delivery and Impact at Good Governance Africa.

COVID-19: A pandemic unfavourable to journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic came with its own set of rules and regulations, which anyone who chose to disobey, did at their own risk. Many of these rules infringe on rights, across the board. Governments appear to have taken advantage of the crisis to prohibit or restrict all manner of things, including public gatherings.

The pandemic has also ushered in a difficult time for journalists, who have to try to do their jobs in the face of a new, unspoken rule: “Thou shalt not criticise thy leaders.” Between March and May this year, for example, there were no fewer than 10 reported assaults on journalists in Nigeria. Journalists have also lost their jobs.

The pandemic has also ushered in a difficult time for journalists, who have to try to do their jobs in the face of a new, unspoken rule: “Thou shalt not criticise thy leaders.”

On 26 March, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State in Nigeria’s south, sacked Vincent Ake, general manager of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation. No reason was given, but it has been reported that Ake had published a report on the first case of COVID-19 in Rivers State without getting approval from the taskforce on coronavirus set up by the state government.

Next door, in Imo State, Angela Nkwo-Akpolu, of Leadership newspaper was assaulted and her iPad seized on 28 March by personnel from the Department of State Security. According to a statement by the Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nkwo-Apolu was attacked while taking pictures of a hotel in Owerri where guests had been forcibly quarantined – allegedly because the hotel had not complied with government directives on checking the spread of the coronavirus.

Further south, the chairman of the Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Michael Ikeogwu, and Mathew Omonigo, a journalist with the Daily Post, were beaten up on 1 April by members of the state Environment Task Force. This happened as they were monitoring the stay-at-home order aimed at curtailing the pandemic’s spread.

Michael Ikeogwu and Mathew Omonigo were beaten up on 1 April by members of the state Environment Task Force.

Ikeogwu said they were held for more than 45 minutes by overzealous officials. “It took the swift intervention of the chairman of the Environment Task Force … to free us,” he said.

On 2 April, police arrested 12 journalists filing their COVID-19 reports at the NUJ secretariat in Adamawa State in Nigeria’s north-east. They were accused of breaking lockdown rules. The state NUJ chairman, Ishaka Deden, said he was “very shocked to see three trucks loaded with armed policemen coming to disrupt the peace of the journalists who were on assignment waiting for an update from the disease control centre.”

On April 22, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, south east Nigeria, barred two journalists from state functions for life. In a live state-wide broadcast Umahi alleged that the journalists habitually wrote negatively about the state. He said he didn’t know why his officials had allowed the journalists to do this, and added that: “You have the pen, we have the koboko. Let’s leave the court alone.”

“You have the pen, we have the koboko.” – Governor Dave Umahi

These are threats reminiscent of Nigeria’s military dictatorship era. The koboko is a whip made of cowhide, and during the military dictatorships it was used by military officers “to discipline the unruly.” The governor’s remarks were greeted with wide condemnation which forced him to  soft pedal, describing the dissension as a case between “a father and his son,” and unintentional.

Kufre Carter, a journalist with XL 106.9 FM, in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, was arrested on 27 April and arraigned in court two days later on a charge of defamation. He had called out the state’s health commissioner, Dominic Ukpong, on Facebook for mishandling the COVID-19 pandemic. Ukpong had questioned the number of cases confirmed in the state by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Carter was detained for a month by Nigeria’s State Security Services (SSS) and denied access to his lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, and his family. Effiong secured a High Court order to reduce his bail from N3 million to N200,000, supported by a “surety” from a prominent person within the jurisdiction of the court. He was eventually released on 27 May after the authorities had ignored a court order to free him on bail.

Carter was detained for a month by Nigeria’s State Security Services (SSS) and denied access to his lawyer.

The next day, on 28 April, Emma Bricks Oko, publisher of the online magazine brickswrite.com.ng, was arrested by members of the COVID-19 Joint Task Force, which includes members of the police. Oko was spotted filming their violent enforcement of the lockdown on commercial motorcyclists in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. He was charged with obstructing the work of the task force. A magistrate sentenced Oko to three hours’ community service and a N5,000 fine.

The authorities’ brazen disregard for the law has been condemned by civil society organisations. For one thing, it was clear that the relevant authorities had failed to adequately communicate the status of journalists to their members, says Maxwell Kadiri, a senior legal officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is part of the Open Society Foundations network, founded by George Soros. Journalists, he noted, play a vital role in disseminating information, especially in the context of public communication on the pandemic.

Journalists play a vital role in disseminating information, especially in the context of public communication on the pandemic.

Kadiri’s organisation advocates for the adoption and effective implementation of freedom of information laws across Africa. Commenting on Ake’s firing, he said there had been some cases where information provided by the NCDC had to be withdrawn after challenges from state and other government organisations. Journalists were within their rights to publish NCDC figures, given the fact that the NCDC has primary responsibility for such issues, he told Africa in Fact.

Worryingly, some government organisations see fit to accuse journalists of disseminating disinformation and misinformation. Apparently, it is convenient to make such allegations when the government is shown in a bad light, as with the case of Carter in Akwa Ibom State. If allowed to continue, this could become a trend beyond the pandemic, Kadiri says.

Nigeria’s legislation only covers issues relating to false information, and does not address disinformation – information disseminated with the deliberate intent to mislead – Kadiri adds. “I don’t know of any law that speaks to the exact language of disinformation. So, we don’t even have clarity from a legal standpoint.” The onus should be on the state to prove any claims of disinformation, he argues.

“When journalists become afraid, and when the government is allowed to get away with this level of highhandedness, the chances are that there will be severe adverse consequences for freedom of information across the board,” he told Africa in Fact.

“When journalists become afraid, and when the government is allowed to get away with this level of highhandedness, the chances are that there will be severe adverse consequences for freedom of information across the board” – Maxwell Kadiri

One outcome of this approach would be that, the only information allowed would be that, which shows the government in a good light. Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) clearly stipulates that “the media has a responsibility to hold the government accountable to the people.” This is supported by further provisions of the FOI Act.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has noted that the pandemic has brought about a wave of human rights violations around the world. It has brought “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering,” he said, appealing for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally. The virus threatens everyone. Human rights uplift everyone.”

The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) and Human Environment Development Agenda Resource Centre (HEDA) have jointly condemned the acts noted above, as well as others. “Independent journalism, citizen reporting, open public discourse and the free flow of information are indispensable in the global effort to counter COVID-19,” they said.

Will the Nigerian government heed these calls and help to ensure that the pandemic does result not in journalists becoming an endangered species in Nigeria?

 

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Adie Vanessa Offiong is an award-winning journalist in Abuja, Nigeria, with experience in investigative, science and development journalism. She is member of the Health Systems Global, African Investigative Publishing Collective and of the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism. Vanessa was the winner of the 2019 Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF) Journalists of the Year Award and was the only female finalist of the 2019 Continental Journalism Awards on the African Union Charter.

Ethiopia faces a ‘perfect storm’

A few months ago, security agents intercepted five of Ethiopia’s opposition figures at Addis Ababa airport and took them to a place where individuals contracting the coronavirus were isolated and treated.

They had been on their way to attend a political summit in a northern town, the seat of an increasingly restive regional state, but they were kept under quarantine and prevented from attending. Reportedly, they were detained before they joined a meeting called by “federalist forces”.

The incident showed that the COVID-19 public health crisis could not have come at a worse time for Ethiopia. For those following developments in the country, the polarisation in Ethiopian society is reaching a point of grave concern. Unity of purpose and action remain elusive in the face of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 public health crisis could not have come at a worse time for Ethiopia. The polarisation in Ethiopian society is reaching a point of grave concern.

Since my last blog, the virus has started spreading like wildfire through the country. The death toll is also on the rise, although the mortality rate from COVID-19 remains half the global average. More than 200,000 people have been tested, representing 0.0014% of the population. A little over 3,700 people tested positive for the virus, of whom nearly 850 have since recovered.

In response, Ethiopia’s authorities have closed schools, compelled members of the civil service to work from home, closed borders, and discouraged mobility between the regions. But Tigray Regional State in the north, was the first to declare a state of emergency, ahead of both the federal government and other regional states.

A little over 3,700 people tested positive for the virus, of whom nearly 850 have since recovered.

The declaration, in response to the spread of the virus, appears to be as good as a poison pill for the country’s fraught political process, and the result is a profound constitutional crisis.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is celebrated across the world as a rare African leader to have won a Nobel Peace Prize. Yet, now, he finds himself in difficulty, without the electoral means to stay in power. Officials in Ethiopia have declared that they are unable to administer national elections scheduled for August this year, fearing that such a large-scale enterprise could help the virus`s spread.

It must be noted that this is not unusual: across the globe, some 52 countries have put elections scheduled for this year on hold due to COVID-19. However, in Ethiopia’s case postponing elections may leave the country without a legal government.

In Ethiopia’s case postponing elections may leave the country without a legal government.

Unfortunately for the prime minister, the Constitution limits the terms of both chambers of the legislative houses to five years; there is no provision for allowing an extension. The framers of the Constitution clearly abhorred a power vacuum, and were determined never to let any incumbent overstay their mandate. The terms for the current legislative houses end in the first week of October this year, so the mandate of Abiy’s administration to govern will end soon.

Constitutionalism and the rule of law have dominated the airwaves in the political discourse. Ethiopia does not have a constitutional court, while its Supreme Court does not have the power to resolve constitutional disputes. So far, though, this has not helped Abiy in his quest for legitimacy.

Ironically, three days before the House of Federation’s 153 members began deliberations to determine whether the Constitution can be interpreted as supporting a further lease on life for the incumbent Prosperity Party, the Speaker, Keria Ibrahim, resigned in protest against a government that she says “not only endangers the constitutional political order, but also the very survival of the country”. A senior leader of the TPLF, which governs Tigray Regional State, she accuses Abiy of governing in an “unconstitutional and dictatorial manner”.

Tigray has declared its intention to conduct a provincial election of its own, in defiance of a decree from the federal government. Its leaders appear to take the view that the central government’s management of the threat of the coronavirus may prove to be a threat to the viability of the Ethiopian state. They have urged the international community not to sit by idly, or to let the Horn of Africa “fall apart”.

Tigray has declared its intention to conduct a provincial election of its own, in defiance of a decree from the federal government.

What lies behind this is the fault lines in Ethiopia’s “shifting political landscape”, as René Lefort and William Davison put it. Whereas earlier regimes were shaped by a unitarist vision of the Ethiopian state with a “one country, one flag” mantra, more recently the disagreements are between different views of federalism.

On the one side, there are disagreements between those who abhor a multiculturalist form of federalism and support “geographic” federalism, while others emphasise self-determination and autonomous rule in the regional states. On the other side, there are those who support a “softer federalism with a strong central government” and those who support stronger regions.

It is a safe bet, then, that the views of the “federalist forces” whose summit was disrupted a few weeks ago did not please the government in Addis Ababa.

The COVID-19 induced political confrontation in Ethiopia is escalating by the day. However Abiy responds, it will likely only add to a myriad of problems that the country faces, which could only be described as a perfect storm.

 

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Tamrat G Giorgis is the managing editor of Fortune, which covers mainly the economies of Ethiopia and Africa. He has over 28 years experience in nearly every aspect of publishing with more than 11 various publications. He is a member of the Alumni of the University of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Policy and regularly contributes to specialised international publications.

In Cameroon, the wearing of face masks is mandatory – but not for Mr President

Cameroon occupies a prominent position on the list of countries in sub-Saharan Africa badly hit by the coronavirus. By 15 June, the country had surpassed the 10,000 mark in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 275 deaths.

Like other countries, Cameroon has been struggling to suppress the spread of Covid-19, while grappling with the resulting effects. In a bid to protect lives, and at the same time livelihoods, the country has adopted different sets of measures which restrict freedom of association, movement, religion, trade, amongst others – all guaranteed by the Constitution.

The country has adopted different sets of measures which restrict freedom of association, movement, religion, trade, amongst others – all guaranteed by the Constitution.

On April 13, on the instructions of the president, Paul Biya, the wearing of face masks in all places open to the public became compulsory. Even though by that time face masks were scarce and unaffordable for many, people still made efforts to wear them as police carried out arrests and levied fines.

But Biya has not led by example. When he last received the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa, François Louncény Fall, on 13 May and the French ambassador to Cameroon, Christophe Guilhou, as well as the outgoing South Korean ambassador to Cameroon, Bok-Ryeol Rhyou, on 5 June, he did not bother to put on a mask. Yet, these audiences were held at the Unity Palace and opened to accredited pressmen as well as the president’s aides.

The country’s lawmakers also seem to have copies of the playbook from which Biya is reading. In March, both the lower and upper houses of parliament – the National Assembly and Senate – met in ordinary session, despite the prohibition of gatherings of more than 50 people. They are repeating the same for the June session.

In March, both the lower and upper houses of parliament – the National Assembly and Senate – met in ordinary session, despite the prohibition of gatherings of more than 50 people.

Back then, the speaker of the National Assembly, the Hon. Cavayé Yéguié Djibril, was just arriving back from France (a high-risk country), where he had been treated for an undisclosed illness. He did not quarantine for 14 days as stipulated by health ministry guidelines, even though ordinary citizens were forced to quarantine.

It would be natural to wonder how officials could expect the “common man” to obey the law when they themselves do not. You’d think that everyone should be seen to respect the rules. What is good for the goose, should be good for the gander.

What is good for the goose, should be good for the gander.

Yet the president has also violated the Constitution and flouted rules aimed at guaranteeing the separation of power in other ways. Following national and international calls to decongest prison cells amid the spread of the coronavirus, Biya signed a decree on 15 April commuting and remitting prison sentences. Article 8 (7) of the Constitution of Cameroon empowers the president to exercise the right of clemency “after consultation with the Higher Judicial Council”. But Biya does not appear to have consulted the Higher Judicial Council, despite the fact that the Constitution makes it obligatory and not optional.

Moreover, some coronavirus rules caused confusion. Initially, the government ordered bars, restaurants, nightclubs and other leisure spots not to operate after 6PM. Then, later, it lifted the ban. But people are required to wear face masks while boozing and to observe physical distancing in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. This seems naive. When alcohol is involved, people are less likely to obey rules.

The government’s coronavirus regulations and directives have sparked questions about their appropriateness and proportionality to the threat. Cameroon has relied on legal provisions applicable in ordinary times to combat a pandemic in extraordinary times – and in the process, mixed some measures that are legally binding with others that are not, argues Dr Éric-Adol Gatsi Tazo of the Faculty of Laws and Political Science at the University of Buea.

Cameroon has relied on legal provisions applicable in ordinary times to combat a pandemic in extraordinary times.

Legally binding measures rely on “legislative provisions which make these administrative authorities the guarantors of public order in their respective jurisdictions” and include declarations making it obligatory to wear face masks (city of Bertuoua) and regional prohibitions against alcohol consumption in public (Littoral region), the transport of corpses and unsanctioned donations to fight the virus (Lekie division).

The non-legally binding measures include closing the borders, the schools and universities, bans on gatherings of more than 50 people, closing drinking spots, restaurants and other places of leisure from 6PM (lifted on 30 April, 2020), restrictions on urban and inter-urban movements, as well as the requisitioning of private health facilities, hotels and vehicles and the requirement to wear face masks in public, according to Tazo.

Some of the latter look like emergency measures, but are enacted under ordinary law, he says. Already, they have been used to close shops, impound cars and to justify the use of force to dispel gatherings of more than 50 people, although they have “no legal basis”.

It would have been natural, also, to conclude that Tazo is arguing that the fact that the authorities had not felt it necessary to adopt legally binding measures suggests that they might do so in future, in matters unrelated to the pandemic – thus undermining the rule of law. But the situation is worse than that. “Covid-19 does not threaten the rule of law in Cameroon since it is almost permanently threatened,” concludes Tazo. “It is only a pretext for the perpetuation of the common practices in Cameroon.”

 

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Amindeh Blaise Atabong is a Cameroonian freelance journalist. His interests include gender, human rights, climate change, environment, tech, conflict, peace-building and global development. In 2019, he was a finalist in the inaugural True Story Award, and also won a prestigious Kurt Schork Award in International Journalism.  His works have been published by independent regional and international outlets, including Quartz, Mail & Guardian, Reuters, Jeune Afrique, Epoch Times, African Arguments and Equal Times. 

COVID-19: In South Africa, a constitutional crisis and even worse inequality

Flattening the curves

When President Cyril Ramaphosa stepped up to the podium on 15 March 2020, to announce a National State of Disaster, 10 days after the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country, there was a collective sigh of relief.

He was calm, his plan detailed and his team well-qualified.

The Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, had the health and political experience and was drawing on lessons learned from devastating impact of the denialism that characterised the government’s approach to HIV for the COVID response.

By March 23, the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had decided on a national 21-day lockdown.

A day after the lockdown started, days after middle class South Africa had cleared supermarket shelves of toilet paper, pasta and tinned foods, social media platforms were abuzz with scenes from townships of long queues that showed no signs of social distancing.

Social media platforms were abuzz with scenes from townships of long queues that showed no signs of social distancing.

This was South Africa: the suburbs firmly ensconced behind high walls, and the working poor — newly paid and finally free of work obligations — queueing for their lockdown supplies.

The police and army were already on the streets with arbitrary punishments and arrests. These arrests are only some of the constitutional issues that have arisen – including the role of the NCCC itself. On 2 June, a damning High Court judgment declared invalid and unconstitutional most of the lockdown regulations issued by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma in terms of the Disaster Management Act. The minister had 14 days to review, amend and republish the regulations.

The police and army were already on the streets with arbitrary punishments and arrests. These arrests are only some of the constitutional issues that have arisen.

For all the planning, the press conferences and the late-night addresses to the nation, implementation relies on systems fragile from years of apartheid with minimal redress in the years thereafter.

This is South Africa.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa won initial praise for his handling of the crisis, he has also been criticised for subsequent decisions. The debate has become polarised.

The old adage to never let a crisis go to waste is not unnoticed. But the pandemic has only brought to the fore long-known issues and has exacerbated the existing crises.

South Africa’s inequality is one. Unemployment, now further battered by Covid-19, is another.

But the pandemic has only brought to the fore long-known issues and has exacerbated the existing crises.

At the end of 2019, the unemployment rate was 29.1%, or five times the rate for other parts of the world. The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned that unemployment could rise to 50% as a result of the pandemic.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned that unemployment could rise to 50% as a result of the pandemic.

For some, there have been positive changes. For many, it is not enough.

As the president himself has acknowledged, mistakes have been. It is clear that the relief measures for the poor are not enough.

Our Covid-19 choices – social distancing versus opening up the economy – have been presented as a matter of life and death. For many South Africans already excluded from the economy, the debate is moot.

We have been warned that the coronavirus will have a second wave. The true challenge for this leadership is not whether we can flatten the curve of the spread but whether we use this moment to flatten the curve of inequality.

Because this is South Africa.

 

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Paula Fray is a leading media trainer and coach who works across Africa and the Middle East. The former regional director for Inter Press Service Africa, she is the CEO of the pan-African communications company frayintermedia, which has worked to improve the quality of journalism in Africa since 2005.