Two people run before being arrested for drinking in public in Diepsloot, Johannesburg during a SANDF and SAPS patrol to create awareness and enforce the lockdown regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture: THULANI MBELE
Two people run before being arrested for drinking in public in Diepsloot, Johannesburg during a SANDF and SAPS patrol to create awareness and enforce the lockdown regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture: THULANI MBELE

Any illusions that South Africans live in a “free” society have been rudely dispelled by the Covid-19 state of disaster. How easily fear encourages societies to trade basic freedoms for vague promises of safety.

Assuming that fewer than 3,000 positive cases of the virus and less than 60 deaths can even be defined as a national disaster, total lockdowns are experimental, having never been attempted before. Certainly, the infection curve has been flattened, but no-one knows what the long-term social implications will be.

Following totalitarian China’s lead on the matter shouldn’t fill us with confidence, especially as their government still has a lot of explaining to do on just how the pandemic started in the first place.

For a country so proud of its struggle for freedom, South Africans collectively submitted to an extended term of house arrest without social contact, also known as banning under the old apartheid regime, with no formal assembly debate. Total power was meekly handed to an executive, which imposed draconian restrictions far greater than “strictly” required to deal with this crisis.

Perhaps the worst of it are the “concerned” citizens who inform on shops selling hot food or neighbours walking their dogs. On current performance we don’t deserve to be a free nation. I trust the next extension will at least merit an assembly debate wherein the government will have to show good cause to achieve a 60% majority.

James Cunningham, Camps Bay

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