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This special issue of Amandla with its feature on the COVID-19 pandemic, has been put together at very short notice. The Amandla editorial Collective believes the impact of the pandemic will be profound and, in the words of the editorial, “its impact will be with us for at least a decade.”
The feature is a combination of original articles and material published elsewhere. Together they provide a compelling insight and perspective on several critical dimensions of the new situation we are facing. However, the situation is developing and changing at a great pace, and several issues will require a new take in just a short time. We are committed to circulating fresh material to our subscribers on a regular basis. Please also logon to the Amandla website special Coronavirus page for new material from SA and internationally.
We acknowledge several weaknesses in the material we have put together and these relate to the time pressure under which we have put this issue together. Our coverage lacks a strong feminist dimension. Women are bearing the brunt of this crisis as they face multiple and intersecting discrimination, exclusion and violence. There is no support for poor and working people to deal with the consequences of the pandemic lockdown strategies. In this context, the burden women bear as primary caregivers is intensified. Movement is restricted, schools are closed and there is inadequate support for care services. In this situation, we are seeing how, at home, patriarchal, gendered norms of unpaid care work are being reinforced, as well as rapid surges in domestic violence across the world and in SA.
The loss of jobs and livelihoods will affect women workers particularly, as a large number of them are outsourced, informalised and casualised. Future articles and issues of Amandla will provide greater insight into these dimensions of the impact of the pandemic. Equally, a stronger regional and continental focus on how the pandemic will unfold will be necessary.
We look forward to critical feedback, insights and analyses from you, our readers, which we can publish in the coming issues of Amandla.
This Changes Everything
For many, the lockdown of 21 days will be a severe test. For some it will in effect be impossible. Imagine being under lock-down for 21 days in a one bedroom shack with six or seven others. Tensions and violence are bound to rise, and it is women who will bear the brunt. Great anger is brewing at the government’s stinginess and failure to ensure the livelihoods of the millions who cannot afford to be locked down. But the crises triggered by the global spread of the coronavirus will endure much longer. Its impact will be with us for at least a decade. This is not some passing shock. This is especially true as it is taking place in the context of other crises (the climate, the economy, and a host of social crises) which are bearing down on civilisation. Its reverberations will fundamentally reshape our political, economic, social and ecological lives. Exactly what this will all look like we don’t know yet.
Corona pandemic is provoking new systemic crisis
But what we do know is that much of what we are experiencing today, and will experience for the next months and years, did not start with the virus. It follows on from the 2007/8 global crisis, which, because of its global spread and impact, became a systemic crisis. It led to political mobilisations such as the occupy movement, the Arab Spring and our own Marikana moment, which began to challenge neoliberal capitalism.
Similarly, COVID-19 is provoking public health, social and economic crises across the world. So we can expect a new set of political disruptions. They will once again raise a series of questions: is capitalism an appropriate system? Is it sustainable? What are the alternatives?
This does not mean we are looking at the imminent demise of the capitalist system. We have been here before. Just like in 2007/8, neoliberalism is the dominant form of capitalism. And it has already had to be temporarily abandoned as the state has had to come to the rescue of the market. This process raises the possibility and feasibility of an exit from neoliberalism. The normal functioning of neoliberal capitalism is having to be put on hold to deal with the scale of the health crisis and arrest the severe economic shocks the global economy is experiencing. So, the possibilities of an alternative to neoliberalism, even to capitalism, will become more widely discussed.