African countries’ quick response to COVID-19 was helpful

By Asiphe Nombewu

Pneumonia coronavirus

​Africa’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic was recently discussed at a digital dialogue hosted by Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Social Justice Chair.

The virtual conversation was set out to scrutinise Africa’s policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to assess congruence with the rule of law and social justice imperatives in an attempt to realise the African dream.

SU’s Law Trust in Social Justice collaborated with the Uraia Trust in Kenya to bring this think-tank to life. The Uraia Trust is a charitable trust, which works in the areas of civic education and civic engagement in Kenya.

The dialogue, facilitated by Prof Thuli Madonsela, Social Justice Chair at SU, included speakers such as Dr Justice Alfred Mavedzenge, a Constitutional Law academic and legal advisor at the International Commission, and Dr Mshai Mwangola, a performance scholar who uses the lens of culture in her work as an academic.

Mwangola said Africa surprised many critiques who predicted that the continent would be hit the hardest. She said the pandemic has given African governments the opportunity to test their systems in their respective countries.

According to Mwangola, African governments were quick to respond and took the threat of the pandemic seriously and did not assume they would be able to handle it.

She said although responses have been helpful, Kenya documented 10 people who died at the hands of police who were supposed to enforce the lockdown law. “A response such as a lockdown also meant that many people lost their livelihoods and some could have died of hunger. This is why it is important for government to look at the effects of such responses on the poor and marginalised; our responses need to consider all citizens,” she added.

In his address, Mavedzenge said it was important for government to think through responses during times like these. “We need to begin to connect across our spheres and turn to regional and continental bodies. We also need to ensure that these responses are pitched to the most vulnerable in our countries,” he said.

He said that although a lot has been done to prevent loss of life, further research needs to establish how many people died of hunger during the strict lockdown regulations. “Transparency and accountability are the rule of law, and decisions regarding responses cannot be taken in secret. This is why we need to work across borders to ensure we hold government accountable,” he said. 

Madonsela said the aim of the conversation was to draft a continental report that would be sent to the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the African Union chairperson.

Source: Stellenbosch University

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