What you see depends on where you’re watching from. Right now, a chasm is opening between how state power looks to commentators who stand outside it and some of those who actually wield it.

Seen from the outside, state power has dissipated to a shocking extent. The presidency has no control over key ministries, so everyone is free to fight her own pandemic. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is out to quell the consumption of tobacco and alcohol; Ayanda Dlodlo and Bheki Cele are garrisoning the population at gunpoint; Ebrahim Patel is micromanaging the national economy; Pravin Gordan is saving the parastatals; Tito Mboweni trying to manage sovereign debt. That many of these projects are incompatible seems not to matter. Each goes on.

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