Crime follows on coronavirus heels as S. African provinces enter peak

Soldiers in Port Elizabeth. They have been asked to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Hours after the incident, South Africa’s police minister Bheki Cele was on air bemoaning the rise in violence.
  • Numerous police stations have had to close for cleansing before being reopened for stripped-down business.

  • The pandemic has taken hold in the largest commercial province of Gauteng, with Johannesburg and Pretoria badly hit.

Initially, it is not clear if the bloodied boy in a widely shared clip is dead. He is another victim of the upsurge in violence that has followed the pandemic.

The 11-year-old in the video, captured on Thursday in Manenberg – one of Cape Town’s most violent, suburbs – was shot in the groin over an “argument”.

Locals say he had been sent by a gang boss on an errand when the shooting took place. He survived though many have not been lucky.

Hours after the incident, South Africa’s police minister Bheki Cele was on air bemoaning the rise in violence.

Cele said more than 5,000 police officers have been infected with coronavirus, with 37 deaths.

Numerous police stations have had to close for cleansing before being reopened for stripped-down business.

COVID STORM

While the force is coping, Cele said he is concerned by the mounting toll it is taking on those left standing.

The violence comes as South Africa endures the full force of the coming Covid storm, recording 13.734 new infections overnight, the figure taking the total cases over the quarter of a million mark, with officially-recorded deaths at 3,720.

However, health officials worry that the actual death toll is being undercounted. The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said on Friday that actual deaths may be as many as three times higher, with some 7,000 “excess deaths” emerging from an analysis of the national health, death and morbidity data.

The council said comparing deaths with previous periods, actual fatalities from all causes are responsible for the excess figure – meaning Covid is almost certainly responsible for most.

The shortfall in accounted Covid deaths is not, however, a cover-up by authorities, SAMRC said, but rather a consequence of the focus on dealing with the virus in real-time.

The comparisons – adjusted for population growth – showed up the discrepancy, which was also seen in other countries where Covid deaths were undercounted at first for similar reasons.

Beyond the issue of deaths was the rapidly escalating daily new infections, which breached 10,000 less than a week ago.

The pandemic has taken hold in the largest commercial province of Gauteng, with Johannesburg and Pretoria badly hit.

TESTED POSITIVE

Gauteng premier on Friday said he had tested positive, joining two other premiers, out of the country’s nine provinces.

Gauteng has become the epicentre of the outbreak, with more than 43 per cent of South Africa’s confirmed cases.

Health officials fear hospitals will be swamped with the sick and dying once the virus takes full grip in vast urban settlements and mini-cities like Soweto.

There has been an increase of 40 to 50 per cent in casualty cases – almost all the result of alcohol-spurred violence and car accidents.

The increase, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said, is not helping in dealing with the growing Covid patient load.

Many government departments are closed or have been reopened after thorough cleaning.

The deeds registry and the Master of the High Court’s office are effectively non-functional, being opened and closed repeatedly due to the rising infections.

Cele said perpetrators of violence would be hunted down.

GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE

Gender-based violence – which a few months before the pandemic was front and centre here – has raised its head again.

Celebrities, entertainers and others are putting their names to helping end the killings of women by their present and past lovers and husbands.

Celebrity and high-profile endorsements of the “End GBV Movement” are similar to what is happening in the US and elsewhere around the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Both social movements have fused in South Africa, where land restitution debate and process continue around redressing 300 years of colonial rule, followed by half a century of Apartheid.

With crime following the infection’s path, South Africa is again facing its dark legacy of high levels of violence.

“It’s pretty much a perfect storm,” a health official said.

“America has a president who won’t do more testing. In South Africa, we can’t. It’s leading to the same result – too many sick people at the same time because the virus isn’t being chased down.”

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