Defend Truth


No country for irrationality and overreach


Andrew Ihsaan Gasnolar was born in Cape Town and raised by his determined mother, grandparents, aunt and the rest of his maternal family. He is an admitted attorney (formerly of the corporate hue), with recent exposure in the public sector, and is currently working on transport and infrastructure projects. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow, a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, and a WEF Global Shaper. He had a brief stint in the contemporary party politic environment working for Mamphela Ramphele as Agang CEO and chief-of-staff; he found the experience a deeply educational one.

We cannot simply ‘return to normal’, but rather in the days and weeks ahead, we collectively must use our agency, grit and vigour to move South Africa to a more fair and just moral arc.

Across the globe, countries, citizens, leaders and economies struggle to respond to the consequences of Covid-19. The uncertainty of Covid-19 can be felt everywhere – it has had a profound impact on the way we live, the way we love, the way we share moments, the way we experience, the way we work and even the manner in which we pray and observe our faith. Critically, it has profoundly affected the lives of those most vulnerable – it has stolen food from their tables, destroyed livelihoods, forced communities to shutter-in and trapped victims in homes where they are dangerously exposed to violence and abuse. 

Yet, in the wake of these unprecedented times, we have many who remain out of touch with the reality of the lived experiences of ordinary South Africans and residents of the republic. 

Covid-19 affects South Africans in profoundly different ways. We have seen social media ablaze with fake news, talk of conspiracy theories, and reflection about the abuse of government power and the ultimate question whether the mechanisms deployed by government seek to rationally respond to this crisis. 

We have over the past few weeks witnessed the whinging from many in the suburbs (perhaps former president Jacob Zuma would have described them as the chattering classes) about the curtailment of their freedoms, and how desperate they were to “just go back to normal”. 

South Africa’s implementation of the health response to Covid-19 has been praised by the World Health Organisation, but at the same time, the United Nations Human Rights Office has received complaints of reports of disproportionate use of force by security officers” in South Africa. President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa will need to ensure Police Minister Bheki Cele begins to act appropriately, and that the effort in providing appropriate law enforcement is carefully managed with the support of Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. 

The irrationality of regulations determined and announced by ministers such as Ebrahim Patel, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Angie Motshekga or Fikile Mbalula has not simply confounded the bounds of logic or reason, it has created devastating and avoidable consequences for many South Africans. 

The response by the Ramaphosa administration must be rooted in rationality, responding meaningful to the pandemic, and focusing on saving lives, protecting livelihoods and those most vulnerable. President Ramaphosa in his Wednesday address this week noted that there have indeed been mistakes and that there would be certain revisions to respond to the irrationality currently reflected in those lockdown regulations.  

The irrationality and overreach in South Africa are not isolated to the Ramaphosa administration, but has played out in various local governments including those in Cape Town and Johannesburg. South Africans will need to remain vigilant if we are going to navigate to a more meaningful, equitable and just social compact. 

Ramaphosa will also need to ensure that his administration holds itself accountable to Parliament in these uncertain times, and where appropriate the republic’s president must ensure that ministers who require remedial support to do their job are managed for the sake of all South Africans. 

We cannot simply “return to normal”, but rather in the days and weeks ahead, we collectively must use our agency, grit and vigour to move South Africa to a more fair and just moral arc. 

As we reflect on how we shift to a more just social compact, South Africans should consider the words of Martin Luther King Jr when he said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. 

The days ahead will require us to work towards a more humane social compact – one that cares in a real sense about ubuntu, citizenship, accountability and service. An arc which does not rely on the whims and machinations of political performers, but rather is rooted in service of people and the values enshrined in our Constitution.  

The social compact that will be forged in the coming weeks will need to push beyond party politics, court battles that are currently underway as they relate to the lockdown regulations, battles far beyond rotisserie chicken and irrational decision-making by Cabinet members and governments across South Africa. 

South Africans will need to lean in towards the current global crisis, reflecting deeply on how structural realities have exposed millions of South Africans and continue to perpetuate a vicious cycle of unemployment, poverty and inequality. 

We are seized with a unique moment to discard “the normal” and to ensure that South Africa and its collective future is not simply leaning towards justice, equality and fairness but rather that we drive with purpose and meaning towards a different way of living and being.  

Ramaphosa, in the days ahead, will need to reprioritise his schedule to ensure that he engages the country on a weekly basis coupled with joint press conferences with Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and other appropriate Cabinet colleagues to provide South Africans with the assurance that is so desperately required in these times. 

Ramaphosa must engage the nation directly far more frequently, especially given the missteps, overreach and irrationality of his colleagues in South Africa’s executive. This is critical in these moments, and Ramaphosa, as he concluded his evening address on 13 May, quoted words spoken by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and it will be critical for Ramaphosa to ensure that he begins to engage directly with the people of this country as both Mandela and Roosevelt did in times of crisis. DM


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