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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

[Source: The Guardian by Mark Gevisser.]

Last Wednesday, aerial photographs captured a snaking queue, 4km long, of thousands of hungry residents from shantytowns outside Pretoria in South Africa awaiting food packages from a charity organisation. There was a chilling resonance with the images of 27 April 1994, 26 years ago, when citizens lined up to vote for the first time, and put Nelson Mandela into power.

Today’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to find a balance between saving “lives and livelihoods” in his government’s response to Covid-19. And he has done well so far with the former. South Africa has been justly lauded for acting quickly to flatten the curve, delaying the pandemic’s exponential trajectory with one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, now in week six, so that it could screen people in hotspots and prepare its ill-equipped health system to manage the load.

But in a country that now faces unemployment shooting up to more than 40%, according to the government’s own estimates, Ramaphosa’s balance is increasingly hard to strike. And the rigid and unexplained way the government began this week’s easing of the lockdown has brought its admirable reliance on science, and sense of empathy, up against its own political baggage. This has caused a perhaps inevitable fraying of common purpose in this fractious country.

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South Africa at a Glance
59 620 000 (mid 2020 estimate)
2.2% y/y in June 2020 (CPI) & +0.5 y/y in June 2020 (PPI)
-2.0% q/q (1st quarter of 2020)
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