Picture: UNSPLASH/JACQUES NEL
Picture: UNSPLASH/JACQUES NEL

The Covid-19 pandemic has lead to the convergence of three crises: a health crisis, an economic crisis and a societal crisis, all with stark consequences. 

Brand SA recently partnered with the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) and Business Day on a dialogue that took place on August 26 2020. The discussion sought to identify actionable insights and recommendations to cope with and prosper beyond the pandemic.

As SA grapples with the consequences of the lockdown, social cohesion remains fragile, particularly as the crises have further exposed the divisions within our society, says Pumeza Ceza, strategic relations manager for civil society at Brand SA. She says that exploring what holds us together and what divides us may be the key to navigating our way through this complexity and uncertainty. 

The discussion, moderated by Iman Rapetti, included University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturer and researcher Lukhona Mnguni, UJ professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, and comedian and academic Conrad Koch. The panel agreed that the current environment is characterised by a sense of exhaustion about corruption and a fear for the future given the prospect of growing unemployment levels.

Watch the video below:

Join us for a Business Day Dialogues, in partnership with Brand SA and the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Advanced Study, where our panel of experts will seek to identify actionable insights and recommendations to cope with and prosper beyond post-Covid.

Growing inequality is worsening the problem of social cohesion, said Mnguni, calling for a bold recovery plan. Elites need to be disrupted and the country’s citizens need to stop tolerating corruption. The government needs to stop making bad regulations that deprive people of the ability to earn a living. Not only have the country’s leaders become deceitful, but they have underestimated the ability of citizens to tolerate growing levels of corruption and inefficiencies, he said.

However, while Covid has disrupted people’s lives, on the ground communities have continued to have a working social contract in place which is helping them through this period.

The political leadership of the country will be severely tested as the country battles to recover, said Ndletyana. He said that we need leadership that doesn’t merely placate or pacify various interest groups but is prepared to make the hard and unpopular decisions necessary to put the economy back on track. Pointing to the recent example of President Cyril Ramaphosa conceding to the powerful teachers union, he questioned whether our country’s leadership is capable of making these hard decisions.

There are a number of potential solutions to our current challenges, he said. “In a country with such high unemployment why do we even have a minimum wage?” adding that trade unions might have to start making some concessions. The country’s leadership can no longer afford to make fashionable decisions, he said, suggesting that the government starts to practice a degree of blackmail to get the economy on an upward trajectory.

One of the biggest problems, said Koch, is that there continues to be a lack of perspective regarding who qualifies as a South African, who is more deserving of human rights, and how we change a fundamentally sexist and prejudiced society. Koch, who has a master's degree in corporate anthropology, which he said, “everybody knows is the study of white guilt,” and that the current power status quo will continue until something drastic occurs to shift those dynamics. He called for a greater focus on enabling SMMEs to operate without undue red tape.

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