A South African stranded in South Africa

As many of you who follow me on Social Media may know as per the posts and activity online that I have been stranded in South Africa since 16 March 2020 to date 30 June 2020.

The ordeal has been difficult to say the least, but it has also allowed me the time to reflect on the differences between countries regarding the crisis management and ability to successfully initiate plans for the betterment of society.

My host country as you might know is Qatar, where I reside with my 2 daughter and my wife who is a frontline Medical Professional. During my 15 week ordeal, my wife and kids have been stuck in Doha whilst I who was supposed to come to South Africa for only one day, have been stuck here for more than 100 days.

Both South Africa and Qatar more or less went into their primary lockdown stages at the same time around 17 to 22 March this year and have reacted and managed the crisis in very different ways. Qatar being the wealthiest country per capita on earth, managed the crisis the way which they knew best, throw as much money at the problem and it will go away. They imposed strict lockdown regulations with huge fines of up to QR200 000 for transgressors who broke the laws of the lockdown. They closed all the schools, colleges and universities and completed the 2020 curriculum via an effective online learning programme which was jam packed into one and a half months of tedious work for scholars and students.

Further to this, they locked down entire areas which were identified as hotspots and only allowed medical response teams entry and prevented residents from leaving. Qatar also closed their borders early to prevent entry to anyone. During all of this, they used remote controlled robots, loud hailers on vehicles and social media to promote social distancing and the wearing of masks. All retail came to a halt except supermarkets and pharmacies. In addition to this, all transactions with the Ministry of Interior was done via their Metrash2 Smartphone Application. In addition to this, they launched a mandatory tracking application to track the Coronavirus amongst the population. Though they’ve done all of this, there was no talk from the government on assistance to businesses and workers, in fact many migrant and skilled staff lost their jobs and will have to leave the country once the restrictions have been lifted. Many residents were forced to board expensive repatriation flights to get to their home countries as they lost their livelihoods. Many South Africans too were victims of cutbacks and were forced to return to South Africa.

The situation is indeed an indication of how even the most powerful and wealthiest countries would be affected by this crisis.

Now let us look at South Africa and how our country has managed the crisis. Obviously, South Africa could never compare to Qatar in total value spent on containing the Pandemic, however it has reallocated almost all its resources to assist the people during this trying time.

South Africa even before the onset of the Coronavirus crisis, was a country with huge financial challenges and failing economy due to many underlying issues and a widening disparity between rich and poor.

However, our government put the lives and livelihoods of its people first and threw whatever resources it could as an attempt to ease the burden of its citizens and businesses, though it could ill afford to do so. This action would ultimately ruin the country financially and put added pressure on an already failing economy.

Though through all of this, they managed to enter a smart lockdown and save valuable lives and make sure that our healthcare facilities were ready when the real numbers were expected. The government showed that lives mattered more over the bottom line.

If one compares Qatar’s Crisis Management to South Africa’s, then we are pleasantly surprised to see just how well we have done with the limited resources available. Qatar with a population of only 2,7 million have a real crisis at hand when compared to our population of 52 million. Yet our bill so far for this pandemic is a fraction of what Qatar has spent.

If one looks at the population dynamics of the two countries, it is indeed totally different, with Qatar having 0% poverty whereas 1 in every 4 South Africans are living below the bread line and are forced to reside in informal settlements without running water and electricity.

From the table below, South Africa, though challenged by its financial constraints, have managed to contain the Pandemic far better than Qatar with its infinitely deep pockets. Qatar’s infection rate is more than 10 times that of South Africa and our death rate is only 0,001% more than that of the small Emirati State when considering South Africa’s population is almost 20 times the size of Qatar’s.

We know that our South Africa is not perfect and yes, we know that we have flawed leaders within the ranks of our governments. However our people have overcome many challenges over the past few decades and there will surely be many more that we will face. Yet through all this adversity, one thing always shines through as South Africans, we are resilient, we are fighters and we have the ability to adapt.

Nelson Mandela said: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

If we stand together, help each other, and work together, we as South Africa will once again prosper.

By Abdu-Raof

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