On Monday, when President Cyril Ramaphosa stood up to announce a 21-day national shutdown, there was panic in his eyes. The president, renowned for his serenity, spoke of the possibility of "hundreds of thousands" of coronavirus infections, and plans to bring in the army to ensure the lockdown is enforced.

Ramaphosa appeared presidential, and this crisis has strengthened his legitimacy. Even political rivals are backing him. It makes you shudder to imagine what would have happened had his predecessor been in charge: the Gupta-run VR Immunology would have scooped the tender for Covid-19 tests, appointments to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases would be decided in Saxonwold, and infection rates would be announced at a daily New Age breakfast...

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