South Africa: Mistaking Constitutional Democracy for 'Moralitocracy' May Cost Us the Lives of Children


If Angie Motshekga is prepared to burn bridges with the unions that she had put before children up until now, what makes us think children are that high a priority in her world?

The infantilisation of South Africans cleared its throat in Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma's schoolmistress influence over lockdown regulations; it now sings in Minister Angie Motshekga's decision to return children to school.

The belittlement of the public in both decisions is a consequence of the widespread assumption that we're a "moralitocracy", that the job of the state is to teach us how to be good children. The antidote to this is remembering that we're a constitutional democracy.

We need to run the economy just enough to keep resources flowing, but not so much that we endanger a critical mass of people into an unmanageable infection tipping point. In this scenario, there'd be more efficiency if government's role were reduced to coordination. The centralisation of its decision-making brings in the risk of politicians using the pandemic to strengthen their positions by clinging to power.

This argument was difficult to make with regards to the alcohol ban because there's the lingering assumption, a hangover from apartheid, that we're a meritocracy...

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