IN THIS WEEK’S BOTTOM LINE

CONTRIBUTED BY GIELIE FOURIE| OVERBERG ASSET MANAGEMENT

Pres Cyril Ramaphosa’s response to the threat of the coronavirus was quick, courageous,
and presidential. He acted like a statesman. Some world leaders failed dismally.

World leaders can look up to our president for lessons in leadership.

Pres Ramaphosa has managed the coronavirus pandemic well. He acted swiftly, courageously, and presidentially. In contrast, the weaknesses of many world leaders were exposed - they were indecisive and slow to react. Business Insider reported: “Even as outbreaks (of the coronavirus) have stormed the globe many world leaders denied the severity of the virus at first”. We look at eight world leaders who made fatal mistakes – even to the extent that some of their actions border on criminality.

HOW DANGEROUS IS THE CORONAVIRUS? The coronavirus attacks the respiratory system. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) also attacks our respiratory systems. How do these diseases compare? Compared to SARS and MERS, the danger of the coronavirus lies in the fact that it is much more infectious – it spreads quickly, but it is much less fatal. HOW DO YOU FIGHT THE CORONAVIRUS? Medical experts agree that the two basic tools or “weapons” to fight or contain the spread of the coronavirus are: (a) lockdowns and (b) social distancing.

We look at eight countries whose leaders repudiated advice from their health ministries. Interestingly, the eight leaders all made the same two mistakes: (a) They stubbornly denied the severity of the virus. (b) They refused to introduce the two tools of lockdowns and social distancing. The damage done by one serious mistake was aggravated by the damage done by a second serious mistake.

No. 1 - CHINA: Chinese authorities downplayed the threat of the coronavirus outbreak when it first began in November/December 2019. On December 31, they even released a statement to the WHO (World Health Organization) saying the disease was "preventable and controllable”. This was a mistake. To its credit, China quickly rectified the mistake. In mid-January 2020 China introduced extreme lockdown and social distancing measures. It worked, but not before many people died. After reporting little to no new infections, China has lifted the lockdown on the city of Wuhan.

Nos. 2 and 3 - ITALY AND SPAIN: ITALY: Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte downplayed the coronavirus infections in February. To his credit, when cases began to rise in late February, he initiated one of the most sweeping nationwide lockdowns. As a result of his slow response, many people died. SPAIN: Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez allowed large gatherings to proceed in sports stadiums and rallies. No wonder the disease spread like wildfire. He introduced a nationwide lockdown on 14 March 2020. Still, many people died – the lockdown was viewed as being introduced too late.

Nos. 4 and 5 - THE USA AND THE UK: USA: Pres Donald Trump initially repeatedly downplayed the virus, calling it a "hoax". He even claimed to have everything completely under control, comparing corona to the seasonal flu. The US is now the global epicentre of the outbreak. THE UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson believed the coronavirus was a "moderate risk" up until late February. Johnson was lax and late to impose a national lockdown. In early March, Johnson nonchalantly said he had been shaking hands in a hospital among coronavirus patients. No surprise, he contracted the coronavirus himself. He ended up in hospital, in ICU. Luckily, he recovered and has been discharged. But many people were not so lucky.

No. 6 – IRAN: Late February 2020, Iranian officials boasted that the coronavirus epidemic would not happen to them - even bragging about sending face masks to aid China. Things changed quickly for the worse. In early March, government began scrambling to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus. The military conducted door-to-door sanitation. They even threatened the death penalty as punishment for any individual accused of hoarding masks. They had a shortage of masks. Why? Remember, their masks went to China.

No. 7 - BRAZIL: Pres Jair Bolsonaro, a controversial figure in Brazil, has repeatedly downplayed the coronavirus by calling it "a measly cold". Bolsonaro, who boasts a long military background, (he is an army captain) blatantly ignored advice from his health ministry. Bolsonaro countered: "Some will die from the virus, but such is life." He described social distancing as “poison”. Bolsonaro maintained that the economic toll to contain the virus cannot be allowed to be worse than the spread of the illness itself. It became so bad that governors of states across Brazil started implementing their own lockdowns, effectively ignoring Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro blamed the media. He was advised to fight the virus, not the media. No. 8 – THE WORST CASE - MEXICO: Pres Andrés Obrador, a professor in political science, blatantly ignored early warnings over the coronavirus - he did nothing. He was seen mixing with crowds and kissing children. He waited till 1 April to declare a health emergency and a 30-day lockdown. The media described his actions as "almost criminal". His reputation is marred by a list of controversies, even lynching.

SOUTH AFRICA: The above facts, they are not judgements, prove that Pres Ramaphosa stands tall amongst world leaders. His philosophy of wide consultation and seeking expert advice, is a winning philosophy. He provided ethical leadership, which was sadly absent during the Zuma regime. Ramaphosa has solidified his position within the ANC. He is in a stronger position to lead us out of our economic woes. Ironically, it has taken a deadly virus to reveal Pres Ramaphosa as a statesman. In Afrikaans: “Doen so voort” – meaning: “Continue with your good work.”

Read More: Overberg Market Report 21 April 2020