Something good might come out of the coronavirus pandemic

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
Children in Lavender Hill, Cape Town, queue for food supplied by civil society amid the national lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic. / Brenton Geach/ Gallo Images
Children in Lavender Hill, Cape Town, queue for food supplied by civil society amid the national lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic. / Brenton Geach/ Gallo Images

The Covid-19 pandemic has me thinking of the lack of investment into our health services by African leaders in particular. African leaders have always been found wanting when it comes to the investment in such infrastructure.

I am particularly thinking of this because more often than not, they seek medical attention outside of their home countries, which allows them to not come face to face with the healthcare systems of their countries.

One of the best outcomes of this pandemic would be African leaders rethinking and re-imagining a different, enhanced level of health services for their citizens.

The leadership in Africa has widely been engrossed with corruption and the pillage of resources in their respective countries, knowing that they have the ability to go and seek medical attention in countries that have invested in their healthcare services.

Now they have nowhere to go, those European countries that they would consider as places of safety for themselves or a place to seek better medical services, they themselves are under pressure and are unable to cope with their own health issues.

The "beauty" with this pandemic is that it's going to require a total mindset shift in our leaders (well we hope). The eccentric and selfish leadership by African leaders will have to come to a stop because the current period has exposed the cracks. Some of these cracks have long been exposed by journalists, civil society organisations and everyday citizens of our country.

Cracks such as the hunger problem in SA, which have been exacerbated by this pandemic, as we have seen scenes of long queues of people hoping to secure food parcels. Cracks such as the overcrowded, understaffed hospitals; these are just some of the many problems which have reared their ugly head due to being exacerbated by the current pandemic, but they have long existed.

George Orwell makes the proclamation "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Which in a lot of instances is true, but currently it has come to a halt. Our leaders are finally in one boat with us - this is an unfortunate statement to make because in us electing them, many of us believe they will make a change to our current circumstances.

Granted, their class positionality makes their experience of this pandemic far better than that of the everyday South African. However, this is one of very few instances where we have seen our leaders not far removed to the experience of the everyday person. They cannot run away this time.

I hope our African leaders will learn that it can't be business as usual, they will in fact learn that it's critical to continually increase and enhance capacity of their own countries so that it is not them who solely benefit because they have access to resources and can thus place the masses they are leading on the back burner.

Our president, who has been doing remarkably well when it comes to this crisis, is well-placed to be the one to urge African leaders to change, reflect and do some introspection on recognising their failures and how they can come back from them and ensure they advance and not regress post Covid-19.

He is not only well-placed as the African Union chair, but he is also being internationally lauded for the manner in which our country has responded to Covid-19. In our everyday conversations we speak about how leaders are removed from reality because they do not use the same services we use.

If they were within the communities their constituencies are found in, using the same pit toilets, the same communal taps/tanks, the same overcrowded hospitals and schools, would we be presented with a different scenario? It is deeply angering that we have to think of what it would take for leaders to act in the best interests of people they lead.

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