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Prominent Political Figures, Top Scientists Deep-Dive Into Cape Town Becoming Africa’s First COVID-19 Epicentre

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Yesterday prominent political figures and top African scientists deep-dived into what it meant when Cape Town became Africa’s first COVID-19 epicentre and what lies ahead for the continent.

The esteemed panel, moderated by Kobie Brand, ICLEI Africa’s Regional Director, included:

  • Premier Alan Winde of the Western Cape Province;
  • Executive Mayor Dan Plato of the City of Cape Town;
  • South African epidemiologist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and Member of the African Task Force for Coronavirus; and 
  • His Excellency Professor Moustafa Mijiyawa, Chair of the African Centres for Disease Control (African CDC), African Union Commission;
  • With a video message from Her Excellency Fatimetou Abdel Malick, President of the region of Nouakchott, Mauritania.

In an intimate discussion, Premier Alan Winde and Executive Mayor Dan Plato shared their personal experience in managing this immense, unprecedented challenge while dealing with ongoing service delivery issues. Professor Salim Abdool Karim spoke frankly about our current reality, the crucial role of strong leadership and a possible second wave. The discussion highlighted the importance of cooperation across all levels of government and sectors of society, lauding the role civil society played in flattening the curve.

Link to the webinar recording:

Here are some noteworthy quotes from the webinar and corresponding timestamps:

 “The learnings from COVID-19 are going to change the way we operate as a government forever. We’ve already set ourselves a 100 Days task, called JOBS NOW. How are we going to claw back the jobs lost? Safety is another focus area because crime and gender-based violence are affecting every single person in our region. For me, a new thing that we have brought in is dignity; so if you’ve lost your job and can’t feed your family – you have lost all dignity – how do we make sure we keep dignity while focussing on this future? An underlying sustainability and new way of thinking has got to be how we move forward; we cannot go back to the old ways,” Premier Alan Winde of the Western Cape province. [1:23:40]

 “I can’t be safe when you are not safe: this virus is about how it spreads from me to you. I am safe because you are safe; you are safe because I am safe. That interdependence is fundamental to our approach. It applies to our partnerships, private, public sector, health and social response. When we appreciate and work with each other, we are strong, when we are divided, we are weak. And this virus knows how to exploit weakness, the moment we are weak it uses that as an opportunity to spread.” South African epidemiologist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, Chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 and Member of the African Task Force for Coronavirus. [29:19]

 “The issue with regards to basic services interlinks very closely with the fight against the virus, to make sure that the critical service delivery measures stay in place. We take our hat off to our frontline staff who needs to ensure that there is clean water in informal areas [these services are delivered]; to ensure the rubbish bins are cleaned each week; that street lights are working and that general services don’t collapse.” Executive Mayor Dan Plato of the City of Cape Town. [38:55]

“Our leaders have proven that they can rise to the occasion. We need to improve our healthcare system: it needs to be resilient from the dispensary level to the hospital level. Nothing can be done if our communities don’t agree with what we’re doing. This means that health care workers need to be trained, and this means that our governments need to invest more in health care equipment, training and research.” His Excellency Professor Moustafa Mijiyawa, Chair of the African Centres for Disease Control

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