‘Mistakes must be corrected’: anger in South Africa as third wave strikes | South Africa


‘Mistakes must be corrected’: anger in South Africa as third wave strikes |  South Africa


Governments across Africa are scrambling to strengthen health systems and speed up vaccination campaigns as a third wave of Covid-19 infections threatens to overwhelm hospitals and kill tens of thousands.

South Africa, the worst-affected country on the continent, has reported a doubling of new daily cases in the past two weeks, with no signs of slowing the rise.

Gauteng province – home to a quarter of the country’s 60 million people as well as the administrative capital, Pretoria, and financial hub of Johannesburg – is the center of the latest outbreak, accounting for around 60% of the latest national daily increase .

Hospitals and health workers are on the verge of being overwhelmed. A large hospital was closed earlier this year after a fire and other large facilities were closed due to a lack of trained staff. Doctors are making dozens of phone calls to secure a bed for critically ill patients.

South Africa has already suffered two major waves, bringing its official death toll to 60,000, although excess mortality figures show at least 100,000 more people are likely to have died in the pandemic.

Last week, Cyril Ramaphosa, the president, imposed slight restrictions that most experts say shouldn’t make much of a difference.

Government expectations are low, with much anger at a string of corruption scandals involving Covid-19 spending. Earlier this month, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was forced to resign as allegations of impropriety in the awarding of Covid-19 intervention contracts were investigated.

Zweli Mkhize, the former Minister of Health, receiving a vaccine against Covid in February. He resigned this month over a corruption scandal. Photograph: Reuters

The 60 or so residents of Union Street, a narrow alleyway in Soweto, say they’ve learned the hard way not to hope too much. “All times were bad. It’s always been tough here. But it’s really worse. We have orphans in our church now, ”said Leonard Magrwanya, 74.

“I trust in God. I have faith in God. One day Covid will be over and we can get back to normal, but that is up to God, ”he said.

South Africa had many advantages over other African countries before the Covid crisis: greater borrowing capacity, a larger public health system bolstered by a large private sector, world-class scientists and a long experience in the management of pandemics.

However, after a much appreciated swift response, the authorities struggled. The economic damage caused by the pandemic has already been severe.

Tasneena Sylvester, 35, who has lived on Union Street for 11 years, lost her job as a housekeeper, and her husband was fired by the construction company that had employed her for years during the harsh shutdown of March and April of last year.

Now the couple and their three children live off government aid and spend their days watching TV and pirating Netflix movies exchanged on USB drives.

“I want an education for my children and a job to survive. But there is nothing left now, “she said.

In the small cabin that is the headquarters of the Soweto Kliptown Youth organization, Bob Nameng, the 51-year-old founder, accused the government of mismanaging the crisis.

“There is too much corruption. The rich benefit from the tears of the poor. The poor cry. The rich dance, ”he said.

Bob Nameng, founder of Soweto Kliptown Youth.
Bob Nameng, founder of Soweto Kliptown Youth. Photograph: Jason Burke / The Guardian

Nameng said he believed that the ruling African National Congress, in power since 1994, had “become the opposite of what the people of Soweto fought for” during the long battle against the racist and repressive regime in Israel. ‘apartheid.

“They don’t care about anyone but themselves. We have supported the ANC but we will not do it forever. They have lost a lot of voices. A hungry man is an angry man, ”he said.

South Africa’s failing vaccination campaign has yet to reach more than one in 30 people, after a series of missteps and woes were compounded by poor decisions, critics say.

Officials were slow to engage in talks with manufacturers, and talks were later delayed by bureaucracy and internal faction battles.

The UN-backed Covax program delivered one million AstraZeneca jabs, which were rejected once it became apparent that they were less effective against the new local variant.

Finally, a 2 million batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines had to be destroyed when regulators ruled it may have been contaminated after safety and health violations at a factory in the United States.

With the rich countries of the West buying millions of doses for their populations, it has been difficult to secure supplies to South Africa.

“What has limited us is the lack of vaccines. All provinces and the private sector have made efforts to open additional sites, ”said Nicholas Crisp, deputy director general of the health department.

The vaccination campaign has also been suspended on weekends to allow health workers to rest, and because there is “no budget for overtime”.

At a press briefing last week, Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane vowed the campaign would accelerate as enough gunfire has finally started to arrive, and said military medics would be recruited to strengthen the health system in Gauteng.

A big problem is vaccine reluctance. In a recent poll, 67% said they would definitely take the vaccine, and 18% said they would not. The survey found that those who think Ramaphosa and his government are doing a bad job are much less likely to agree to a vaccine.

On Union Street, some even doubt the existence of Covid-19.

“I think everything is made up. They want us to believe there is Covid and follow their instructions. And I’ve heard that vaccines block your body’s systems, ”said Jemima Dtadegane, 54.

Officials say they are aware of the problem and will try to communicate better in the future. After much interaction during the first months of the pandemic, ministers and government specialists rarely gave briefings. Ramaphosa limited his interventions to infrequent televised speeches.

Alex van den Heever, professor of public administration at Wits University in Johannesburg, said failure to recognize the true number of deaths in the pandemic, as revealed by excess mortality figures rather than deaths recorded in hospital, was the result of an “early political decision.”

“They wanted to make sure that the management of the pandemic was seen to be done by the ANC and that negative issues were minimized. It is an inappropriate intention. Information must be made public, errors must be addressed and all questions must be answered, ”he said. “The reality is that we have had a serious and serious epidemic. “

Most people on Union Street have seen images of the United States or Europe and are aware that the pandemic is ebbing there.

“In rich countries, they go out and work. They have better governments, I think, ”Rebecca Mfungquza, 23. “Maybe they could help us out a bit. We need it.”


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