2014 Tutu Fellow Sello Hatang is raising questions about the worrying intersection of the political economy in a time of COVID-19 with the continuing issue of racism and white supremacy. He questions what will be necessary for South Africa to do to see this moment as an opportunity to fundamentally restructure. In a Daily Maverick Op-Ed published in June 2020, Sello, who is CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, reflects on the global Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as well as numerous incidents of police brutality in South Africa during the lockdown.
He says that he has felt keenly the extent to which 'black lives don't matter' and he poses the question of when the country will start prioritising its most vulnerable?
Sello says that as moments of crisis tend to do, the pandemic has brought the “best and worst to surface.” He took comfort in the shared expressions of solidarity and support of the most marginalised, and noted that some state institutions had stepped up to the challenge in ways that we did not think were possible.
His post was written just days after the brutal police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis that triggered massive protests in the US. He suggests that oppression is resilient because it has been internalised. "How else do we explain the ruthless evicting of vulnerable people from their homes (an old apartheid ploy) in a time of Covid-19 and during winter? Or the heartless attempts by politicians and officials to frustrate the delivery of food to starving people?" Sello deplored what he called the “manifestations of an authoritarian instinct from apparatuses of power”, and warned of its effect on reconstruction efforts on the political economy after the pandemic ends.
Sello also described some of the supportive work he and the Nelson Mandela Foundation have been doing across the country. He concluded his op ed by saying "we cannot tolerate a reality in which the words of Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration in 1994 are rendered meaningless: 'Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another'.””
Sello notes that a state of disaster unavoidably poses an enormous challenge to democratic states as they seek to weigh the common good against the rights of individuals. How the country emerges, and the way in which it prioritises the needs of the most vulnerable will demonstrate the way in which South Africa rises to the challenge of recovering from the pandemic.
You can read the full op ed at The Daily Maverick. The cover image to this post is from his op ed.