Working Papers

Governance in abnormal times – dealing with COVID-19: A regional perspective from South Africa

Governance in abnormal times – dealing with COVID-19: A regional perspective from South Africa

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13 May 2020

Author(s): Gerhard Erasmus and Trudi Hartzenberg

It is too early to know the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus arrived unexpectedly, has spread across the globe in a short time, and is disrupting national health services and causing economic and financial havoc. National emergency measures play a vital role now. Their purpose is to slow down the spread of the virus through lockdown rules, social distancing, closure of schools, public facilities and shops. Testing, which his currently hampered by insufficient testing equipment and in some countries and insufficient testing facilities must be ramped up. Small data samples make it difficult, in some countries, to draw conclusions about the profile of COVID-19, the rate of infections and mortality.

In this working paper we take a look at the emergency measures announced and implemented by the South African Government, their local and regional implications, and what awaits policy makers when they have to pick up the pieces again. Emergency rule is about governance in abnormal times; when new answers must be found for challenges not yet fully understood. Lives as well as livelihoods must be saved, while the world is struggling to come to come to grips with this complex challenge.

Assessing the consequences of this pandemic and evaluating the impact of emergency measures cannot wait till when things are “normal” again. Things will not be as before. It may take years before stability returns to national markets, societies in general and the global economy. Meanwhile governments must cope, adapt and expand their efforts. Where new approaches and different strategies are required, they should be implemented as soon as possible. The additional challenge is to ensure that emergency governance respects basic constitutional norms and that the negative impact on regional trade and cooperation is contained.

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