The decision by the government to impose a stringent 21-day lockdown, one of the toughest yet (China, UK and Rwanda have taken similar action) in the global fight against the coronavirus was unquestionably the correct one, despite the damage the “stay at home” will undoubtedly wreak upon our already fragile economy.
Having said that, it is slightly worrying to note the alacrity with which the ANC administration has grabbed the levers of power enabling them to limit the rights and freedoms of citizens.
In that, it is instructive to see that the impetus for the lockdown came from China which, although it dealt effectively with the health threat, is known for its harsh, authoritarian style of government.
The Chinese managed to put a stranglehold not only on the movement of people, but also on the expression of opinions during the corona outbreak.
So it is worrying, to an extent, to see that the extraordinary powers the ANC now has also enabled it to restrict movement in draconian ways and to also prosecute people for spreading fake news. It is this latter aspect which is concerning because the ANC has in the past often defined information which portrays it in a negative light as “fake news”.
Then again, it is comforting that those working in the news media have been included in the classes of people the government has excluded from the movement restrictions. This is to enable reporters to bring the public, who will be behind closed doors at home, the most accurate, up-to-date information possible.
That is something which did not happen in China. Indeed, the opposite occurred with clampdowns on local journalists and the non-renewal of permits for foreign reporters by the Beijing government.
Our government appears to be tackling this in an efficient and tough, but democratic way.
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