Africa and the Pandemic: Clampdown, Survival and Resistance

Last week ROAPE and BIEA organised a webinar on the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa. Activists and researchers from around the continent discussed the impact of the measures taken against the coronavirus by the ruling classes. In this blogpost we introduce the full video recording of the meeting with all of the speakers, Tafadzwa Choto, Femi Aborisade, Gacheke Gachihi, Lena Anyuolo, Gyekye Tanoh and Heike Becker.  

The webinar, chaired by ROAPE’s Yao Graham in Ghana, asked what is happening across Africa since governments ordered the clampdown. We looked at the impact on the continent of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures taken against it by the continents political and ruling classes, with a focus on the repercussions of the clampdown for activism and social movements. All of our speakers addressed what was happening at grassroots and national level, and how the popular classes were being affected.

Reporting from Kenya, Gacheke Gachihi and Lena Anyuolo asked if the state was really fighting Covid-19 or the poor? They argued that since the curfew was enforced across the country the police continue to systematically brutalise and terrorise people living in informal settlements, with many murdered by the army and police. Both argued that the poor must demand the right to healthcare, water and livelihood enshrined in the country’s constitution.

While Femi Aborisade argued that there was a constant struggle for food and survival in Nigeria, and an intensification in the repression of the poor during the country’s lockdown. In South Africa, Heike Becker looked at the reaction of the government, the struggles of poor communities and the urgency of building new activist groups and politics in the country. Tafadwza Choto from Zimbabwe discussed how the ZANU-PF government was using the virus as a cover for wider repression, as activists make the case for radical change.

Taking on the broader political economy of the crisis, Gyekye Tanoh addressed how economies and politics are likely to be reshaped by the virus and its consequences. Tanoh provided the webinar with a pan-African perspective on the likely impact of the global recession on the continent, the role of the IMF and IFIs, as well as the costs for workers, peasants, social movements, activists, and radical projects. He argued that now is the moment to build unity behind an alternative social structure to capitalism in Africa and the Global North.

The following list of speakers is in the order that they spoke:

Gyekye Tanoh is an activist and researcher based in Ghana working at Third World Network in Accra. Femi Aborisade is a human rights lawyer and activist in Nigeria, and a Contributing Editor of ROAPE. Heike Becker is an activist who teaches anthropology at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa and is an expert on Southern African social movements. Antonater Tafadzwa Choto is a well-known labour activist, researcher and currently a PhD candidate based in Harare. Lena Anyuolo is a member of Ukombozi Library and Mathare Social Justice Centre in Nairobi. She is a social justice activist. Gacheke Gachihi is a coordinator of the Mathare Social Justice Centre in Nairobi, which organises campaigns against police brutality and killings in Kenya. 

Featured Image: Graffiti artists work on a mural amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, in Dakar, Senegal on March 25, 2020 (Zohra Bensemra).


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