By Seth Meyer
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 2 of VARSITY News.
South Africa is more than halfway through a 21-day lockdown, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that has reshaped everyday life as we know it across the entire globe.
Not since the beginning of the new democratic South Africa in 1994, has there been such stringent restrictions placed on the movement and gathering of people. The UCT campus itself has remained shut since the 16th of March, and will remain so for the rest of the semester. Police and military services have manned the streets since midnight on the 26th March, enforcing the government’s mandate to stay home and keep off the streets and urged on by President Ramaphosa, now described as a “wartime president.” Armed soldiers patrol the CBD, checkpoints have been set up along travel routes such as the M5, and police cars roam the streets at night. Clashes between residents and police have occurred in Yeoville and other areas, and accusations of police brutality resulting in the deaths of citizens has quickly taken up the public interest.
Over 2000 arrests have reportedly been made, with police also cracking down on the deliberate spread of fake news and errant social media users filming themselves breaking lockdown rules. One BBC News correspondent has described the South African response to the Covid-19 pandemic as “ruthlessly efficient”. The situation remains incredibly dire across the entire world, with many countries and cities continually posting their highest death tolls to date.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause great deterioration in the global economy. The Rand has weakened severely and the great fear of “junk status” was finally realised, with the Moody’s Investor’s Service downgrading the nation’s credit rating in the face of the pandemic. Currently, as of the latest update from Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on the 7th of April, the number of confirmed cases in South Africa stands at 1749, coupled with the grim figure of 13 deaths.