On 29 May 2020, SERI's Executive Director Nomzamo Zondo participated in UCT's Africa Month Virtual Symposium hosted by the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance. Zondo spoke on a panel entitled "Pan-African reflections on leadership and good governance during COVID-19: Good practice, challenges and opportunities", alongside Mr Mcebisi Jonas (Chairperson: MTN Group and former Deputy Finance Minister, Government of South Africa), Dr Boniface Dulani (Senior lecturer: Department of Political and Administrative Studies, Chancellor College, University of Malawi) and Dr Gwamaka Kifukwe (Tanzanian independent consultant in leadership and sustainable development in Africa).
Zondo's presentation reflected on the South African Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the perspective of civil society. She noted how encouraging it was for communities and members of civil society to see how responsive and capable government became in the face of a public health crisis. She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had not only highlighted the fault lines in South African society but also highlighted the need for defending and delivering socio-economic rights.
The crisis has illustrated government's ability to be responsive through the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation's rapid delivery of 41,000 water tanks to communities across the country who had been struggling for many years prior. The Department of Justice also heeded civil society's call for a moratorium on all evictions during the lockdown.
Zondo's presentation also pointed out that government has failed to fully engage and support civil society. She noted that despite this exclusion, civil society has continued to do its part by helping to facilitate food distribution and by providing popular education to ensure that members of society are informed and encouraged to minimise transmission by practising physical distancing. Through its work and relationships with communities, civil society has also been able to provide vital data to the government to enable effective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zondo also noted the heavy-handed police and military enforcement of the lockdown, resulting in abuses and violations of people's rights. She argued that this came to a head in the Khosa matter and that the absence of strong leadership against excessive uses of force and violations has been especially challenging. She argued that SANDF Board of Inquiry into Mr Khosa's death was a clear indication that the military has chosen to close ranks instead of meaningfully responding to the Khosa judgment to restore trust and show care for the wellbeing of all members of the public.