Before we first heard of a coronavirus in Wuhan I had just completed Jared Diamond’s recently published book Upheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change. As I read it my mind constantly referenced its relevance for SA. As a country we were undoubtedly already in crisis, most of it of our own making: state capture, an incapable state, failure to deliver even the most basic of services, power shortages and flagging investment. Then, wham! Covid-19.

Now, as we digest the easing of the lockdown to reactivate the economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement last week that we must not “merely return our economy to where it was before the coronavirus”, but accelerate structural reforms, raises the question: if we couldn’t get done what needed to be done before the pandemic, how can we expect to do so afterwards, when the economic crisis will be amplified?..

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