South Africa And The Coronavirus


I don’t know where overseas news outlets are getting their current information about South Africa and the Coronavirus.  But as a South African citizen, I do know that it’s often inaccurate. Numbers are exaggerated and have to be edited. Names are misspelt and local geography mangled.

More disturbingly, I’ve read several overseas news reports about South Africa and the lock-down. Articles claiming that armed police and soldiers in full riot gear are roaming the streets of Durban, randomly assaulting the homeless and pedestrians. The accompanying pictures to these stories are often unrelated to the content, either showing apartment residents (from a different city) or frequently out-of-date images of soldiers standing around smoking (you can tell that they’re out-of-date because the uniforms are not current.) Tellingly, these articles do not seem to be written by anyone based in South Africa.

I live in Durban. In my experience, the shut-down so far has been fairly calm and orderly for the most part. Yes, there have been issues but we certainly have not descended into anarchy. I really wish that other countries wouldn’t lift their perceptions of Africa from pop culture, which inevitably portrays the entire continent as either rural, poverty-stricken or war-torn.

While I cannot fully dismiss articles about Joburg or Cape Town, it’s interesting that these articles focus on the most dangerous areas in these cities. It is unfortunate that the lock-down is not going smoothly in gang-controlled neighborhoods but hardly indicative of the entire nation’s experience. One has to wonder about  First World coverage obsessing over the developing world’s perceived misfortune (even to the point of exaggerating it.) Is it an attempt to self-soothe during this world-wide outbreak? To console their readers that others are worse off?  If so, it is insulting to their readers (who are not children to be reassured with fairy-tales) and it’s insulting to countries being misrepresented.

A contrived sense of schadenfreude will not lessen the impact of the current health crisis.

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