On roape.net, with Hannah Cross, we wrote at the end of March 2020 about the outbreak of Covid-19 and alternatives to capitalism in the Global South and North. 

ROAPE’s Leo Zeilig and Hannah Cross ask if the experience of life with the Covid-19 outbreak is the common experience of life and death in the South. They argue that now is the moment to build unity behind an alternative social structure to capitalism in Africa and the Global North.

By Leo Zeilig and Hannah Cross

The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the greatest crises of our era – though the elements of the crisis, as they are now being experienced in the Global South and North, are not entirely unusual. State and military enforced restrictions on free movement, imposed isolation, curfews, with towns and cities locked down, are not unique in our lifetime, though they might be in the richest countries in the world.

As many of our readers know from direct experience, these aspects of state power, and the imposition of that power across society, is familiar to many countries and people – not least across Africa. The biggest crisis of our lives is not felt evenly across the globe (roape.net has posted contributions from activists and researchers on the continent, on the response to Covid-19 in their countries).

Millions on the continent have experienced real food crises, collapsed health systems and the terrible, and prolonged tragedy, of early and preventable deaths (remember that infectious diseases are common in many countries of the Global South). We have seen tragedies, of gigantic human proportions, unfold in rapid-fire succession in countries in which ROAPE has a long history.

Economic crisis hastened by restructuring advocated by the World Bank and IMF, in Zimbabwe, was initially followed eagerly by the ruling ZANU-PF in the 1990s, only to lead to a mass political crisis later that decade. The regime survived the popular uprisings, but the new century saw a deepening agricultural and economic depression, that cast millions into exile, and for those who stayed in the country, a life of bare existence.

As prices fluctuated, and the economic meltdown continued, food stores were empty of staple foods, and hospitals were inundated. Millions died. Today, 5.5 million people in the countryside and 2.2 million in urban areas remain in need of urgent assistance, and acute malnutrition continues to rise.

A similar story – though on an even deeper scale – impacted the Congo. Every aspect of society was transformed beyond recognition in the late 1990s as the combined ‘crisis’ crippled institutions, broke up flimsy health services, and overturned community support networks. In the wars supported and funded by multinational mining houses – big and small – hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes, as cities, towns and communities were either destroyed or abandoned as fighting spread from the east.

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