The South African citizens who were repatriated from Wuhan, China. Picture: GUILLEM SARTORIO
The South African citizens who were repatriated from Wuhan, China. Picture: GUILLEM SARTORIO

While President Cyril Ramaphosa acted with commendable speed and unity, the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare SA’s deep social fractures — both in terms of how unequal the country is, and how mismanaged the state has been for years.

It means that now, when we need urgent measures to stem a pandemic, SA is hostage to these structural constraints.

For example, most South Africans travel to and from work in taxis — not in government-run trains or buses that the state would have the obligation, and ability, to police, clean and monitor. Instead, millions remain at the mercy of a thuggish and self-serving industry where reports are already surfacing of discrimination against commuters wearing face masks.

This week, water minister Lindiwe Sisulu sent water tankers to informal settlements to give residents access to water to wash their hands. It is lamentable that it has taken a global crisis to force the government to do what it should have done all along — provide basic services.

Closing schools is another example of how SA’s inequality divide remains entrenched. Those who attend wealthier schools will have access to online classes, will be fed, will enjoy their customary comforts. For children who attend the nearly 4,000 schools that have no toilets, it will be another exercise in brutal self-sufficiency and time lost.

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