A Ticking Time Bomb from North to South Africa

When we talked a bit about the “invisibility” of Africa on the Covid-19 pandemic in the mainstream news, many people must have thought, “I know that story!” And they must know it, because this is the same logic that prevails in the way the bourgeoisie and its spokesmen treat the people in the gullies and on the margins of society. Something shockingly evident in the face of the pandemic.
By Wilson Honório da Silva
It is not only in this sense that one can say that Africa is a continental version of what we see in the outskirts of Brazil and the world. There too, the virus propagates in a terrain already undermined by poverty, hunger, disease, lack of water and minimal preventive conditions.
A situation that is much worse due to social, political and economic structures that have been weakened or deformed by all that has already been exposed in a previous article, and by successive governments (from local to national) that are distant from the interests and needs of the majority of the population.
There is no way of detailing the situation of the 54 countries here, since there is a gigantic social, political, economic and cultural diversity among them, nor of addressing an issue that is inherent to African history, namely the enormous differences that exist, even in a pandemic process, between blacks and non-blacks within the continent itself.
Yet the dynamics and links that the pandemic tends to assume can be exemplified by a speech by Zweli Mkhiuze, South African Minister of Health, at a meeting of the South African Medical Association on March 20. According to him, around 60 to 70% of South Africa’s 59 million people are likely to contract Covid-19; in his opinion, “only” 20% of these cases will be serious. In other words, “only” 12 million people.
We will present below the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths up to March 30, in the main countries of the continent, initiating through some examples, a discussion on the (ir)responsibility of governments in the face of the crisis, which will be the main topic of the next article.
A worrying scenario
At this point it is difficult to say whether the forecast will materialize or whether the same will happen in other countries. However, a quick glance around the continent allows us to have a dimension of the fertile ground that exists for the spread of the virus.
The data is from Africa’s CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an organ of the African Union), which has issued daily bulletins [1], according to the last bulletin issued on the morning of March 30, when 4,760 cases had already been confirmed (500 more than the day before, to give an idea of the dynamics of the pandemic), 146 deaths and only 335 cases of recovery.
In the list, after each region, we indicate in parentheses the number of people carrying the virus and the deaths.
In the following articles we will raise some socio-economic and political issues that may help to understand why, in fact, the possibility of a disaster is real.
North Africa (1,922 / 105, meaning 40 deaths in a single day): the country with one of the highest numbers of infected and dead in the region above the Sahara Desert and Egypt (609 / 40). In the same region, the situation also worsens in Algeria (511 / 31), in Morocco (479 / 26; both numbers are twice as high as on the previous day), and Tunisia (312 / 8).
West Africa (861 / 22): in this region, Burkina Faso (222 / 12) is the most affected country, followed by Ghana (152 / 5), Senegal (142 / 0), Ivory Coast (140 / 0) and Nigeria (111 / 1), the most populous country on the continent (about 174 million) where the vast majority of those affected are located in Lagos, the capital, a mega-metropolis whose size (20 million people) foretells huge problems, especially because the cases detected have doubled with each bulletin.
Central Africa (257 / 11): the countries most affected are Cameroon (90 / 2) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (54 / 5).
East Africa (374/6): in this region which recorded 100 new cases in 24 hours, Rwanda (70/0) presents a specificity in relation to the first two reports of infection, which may also characterize the explosion of the pandemic in Africa: the oldest was only 32 years old and the youngest 10 months old. In the same region, Mauritius (110/3), with only 1.2 million inhabitants, is one of the countries where the situation is most worrying and there are also serious problems in Kenya (42/1), Tanzania (13/0), Ethiopia (21/0) and Uganda (33/0).
Southern Africa, (1,346 / 2): a region that has South Africa (1,280 /1) at the forefront, and a situation whose seriousness can be exemplified by the fact that in the last three days there have been about 250 cases, overnight. In this same area, the case of Zimbabwe (7/1) should also be highlighted, which despite the low number of cases reported, deserves some comments, in order to understand some of the difficulties that are repeated in several countries of the continent and influence both the increase of cases and prevention and treatment policies.
Bolsonaros and Trumps on the other side of the Atlantic
Zimbabwe, which has a population of around 14.5 million, and a history marked by extremely high levels of oppression and exploitation, with a myriad of problems accumulated during the forty years of rule by the nefarious Robert Mugabe (who only came to an “end” in 2017), is unfortunately an example of how local governments can contribute to the spread of Covid-19. This is why the country’s government, not by chance, bears bizarre similarities to something we know very well here [in Brazil].
The current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe’s vice president between 2014 and 2017 (which waives any other comment), systematically refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the pandemic, disregarding the prevention measures suggested by health agencies.
And meanwhile, Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri, who also served in the Mugabe government, put aside the possibility of problems in the country, declaring  on March 16, that the Covid-19 is a “punishment from God” on the United States and European countries, in terms of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe on the basis of (incontestable) allegations of systematic disrespect for minimum human rights. The result? Nobody believes in the low number of notifications, and the conditions to face the pandemic are so bad that health professionals (doctors and nurses) went on strike about a week ago, as we will see.
Coincidentally, it is in this same region that we find Botswana, where officially, there are no recorded cases, which also reminds us of the authoritarian, irresponsible and criminal arrogance of Bolsonaro. On the 21st, the world’s press announced that the president, Eric Masisi, had become “patient zero”, after disregarding all the recommendations of the health authorities, and travelling with a huge entourage  to the inauguration ceremony of his colleague Hage Geingob, in Namibia, where so far, six cases have been reported. Days later, the government denied that Masisi had contracted the virus, but he had “self-quarantined” to protect his people.
Somewhat absurd and extreme cases of African governments irresponsibility, the examples of Zimbabwe and Botswana are far from being the only ones and not even the most serious. Criminal irresponsibility and hypocrisy run rampant in African government cabinets. This is the subject of our next article.
1] Always reproduced on the Africa News website: https://www.africanews.com/tag/coronavirus
Translated by Blas ( Corriente Obrera LIT-CI)

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