The UK edition of the Guardian newspaper, in its editorial on 29 April 2020, wrote that herd immunity – “the idea that allowing a virus to spread will eventually build up sufficient resistance in a population” – was part of the British government’s plan and “…was fundamental to the government’s decision-making…”
On the same day that the Guardian published its editorial, South Africa’s positive cases of Covid-19 were 5350 of which 2135 were in the Western Cape; more than a third of the country’s cases whilst the province hosted only ten percent of the country’s population. Currently the cases of Covid-19 in South Africa, have sky rocketed past 8000.
The DA Premier and his provincial administration, like their counterparts in the City of Cape Town with the Strandfontein camp for the homeless, have said and done all things possible to spin this high rate of infections.
Their main argument is that the Western Cape tests more people.
Yet in releasing these statistics mentioned, the national department of health, in the same statement, also indicated that the Western Cape had “contributed to 75% of the total new cases nationally while only contributing 30% of total tests over the same period..”. The 24 hour period being 28 to 29 April.
Something is not adding up.
The Business Day, on the other hand, reported the day before, on 28 April 2020, in their report titled “Limpopo Covid-19 screening far ahead of other provinces” that while Limpopo had screened in the region of 2.7 million people, provinces such as the Western Cape were lagging behind with only approximately 143 thousand people being screened.
The nonchalant attitude of the Western Cape government towards this pandemic is illustrated by the statistics and backed up by their attitude.
On day 8 of the level 5 lockdown, 3 April, Premier Alan Winde broke ranks and defied the spirit of cooperative governance during this national disaster by calling for more “common sense”. He used a data dongle to access e-learning resources as an example.
Yet, if the premier had more common sense he would know that data dongles in places such as Bonteheuwel, Khayelitsha, Blikkiesdorp, Khayamandi, Bongalethu and Kleinvlei are luxuries on any given day never mind during a national disaster. Even if parents in these communities could buy data dongles they still would not be able to afford it.
On day 18 of the level 5 lockdown, 13 April, the national DA broke ranks with the unofficial agreement made by all political parties not to politicize the crisis and called for a “smart lockdown”; as an alternative to the one imposed by the national command council.
For the DA and its funders, it was about getting the economy back again. They remained true to their core beliefs of profit before people, literally the survival of the fittest and exploited the frustration of people for petty political and ideological again.
It is natural for anyone to become frustrated under any restrictions but what was called for was for the DA to lead by example in the Western Cape and ensure that the correct measures, practised in countries such as China, South Korea, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, were encouraged and implemented.
As we entered level 4 of the lockdown, Premier Winde and his administration remained rebellious and open to defy the national government. True to form, they have decided to place emphasis on another luxury, exercise through jogging and cycling, while giving little attention to a pandemic rapidly spreading through the little social distancing practised in the province.
In fact, it would be fair to ask: how can the people of the Western Cape be convinced of social distancing when their premier and his provincial administration promote social gatherings such as jogging and cycling?
The premier played petty politics when he appealed to data dongles and jogging. He thought it was common sense. Data and jogging is not common in South Africa.
The evidence in both the statistics and the stance of the DA-led Western Cape government is that they are taking their cue from their ideological counterparts in Downing Street and the White House. Sadly the evidence is also there of the devastating effects this approach has had on these two countries.
We call on the national command council to intervene urgently in the Western Cape and hold provincial government accountable for the rapid spread of the virus here in our province.
For, in the end, it will be townships who will suffer the most. The DA will use this as an opportunity to lessen the impoverished population and, as always in this DA-led province, the people who will bear most of the brunt will be the poor.
Ronalda Nalumango is the provincial coordinator of the interim provincial committee of the ANC in the Western Cape.