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South Africa-China come together to combat COVID-19
China has been leading efforts to assist South Africa with relief programs during the pandemic
By Tshawe lama Tshawe VOL.13 June ·2020-06-17

A student of Wits University receives food parcels provided by the Chinese business community in Soweto's Pimville township (BRIAN SOKUTU)

Collaborating to drive campaigns to alleviate the plight of millions of people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa has taken the form of a selfless commitment to offer fund, food, protective gear, medicines and medical support. While much of this commitment has come from South Africans, there is also assistance coming from the international community - demonstrating solidarity in action. 

With the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting more than 4.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close to 300,000 deaths as of May 14, the pandemic has seen governments, NGOs, doctors, nurses, politicians, social scientists and ordinary people being among many to respond to calls for assistance during the pandemic. 

Chinese cooperation  

In line with international solidarity, China has been leading efforts to assist South Africa with relief programs during the pandemic. 

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has come forward to hand over a 1-million-rand ($54,000) donation to South Africa's Department of Health, in support of efforts to fight and contain the spread of the COVID-19.  

Huawei South Africa CEO Spawn Fan said his company is a committed ICT and social partner to South African business, government and society.  

"We believe in the power of connectivity and technology. We are committed to harnessing ICT in the fight against coronavirus in South Africa and on the continent. In China, we saw the success of remote education, remote health services and working from home during quarantine periods," said Fan. He believes the coronavirus is not just a threat to life, its knock-on effects on livelihoods and the economy must also be managed. 

In addition to Huawei, a further 2-million-rand ($108,000) donation from the South Africa-China Economic and Trade Association was made to test and manage the pandemic.  

Meanwhile local Chinese enterprises and communities in South Africa also generously donated anti-pandemic supplies and food parcels to local communities through local government agencies. 

A donation by the Chinese Longyuan Mulilo Wind Project of 2.37 million rand ($127,978) worth of medical supplies and food parcels was made to a Northern Cape community, along with a humanitarian gesture by the Bank of China Johannesburg Branch, which handed the Department of Health over 100,000 face masks, 600 protective gowns and five ventilators, worth 200,000 rand ($10,800). 

In the country's Gauteng Province, the ruling ANC party's Treasurer General Paul Mashatile welcomed a donation from the Africa-Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce of 100,000 food parcels to the ANC Progressive Business Forum, to be distributed to Gauteng residents. 

The local Chinese community in South Africa has also been active in assisting locals.  

Together with the China Mall retail center, they have donated food parcels to benefit more than 1,100 families in the suburb of Soweto, including needy Wits University students. 

China Mall Director Robin Xu said that as Chinese people living in South Africa, "we love this country and know that we are in this fight together with South Africa and its people." 

"Many of us have contributed to the fight by taking good care of employees, making donations to the Solidarity Fund and helping out with people in need," said Xu. He noted he was inspired by a quote from Nelson Mandela, "When people are determined, they can overcome anything," and wanted to show the positive commitment of the Chinese community to help out. 

Chinese Embassy Charge d' Affaires Lin Nan said fighting the outbreak of the coronavirus meant the world was one. "This virus knows no borders and no race. Strengthening international coordination, taking up solidarity and cooperation are the most powerful weapons for the international community to overcome the pandemic," said Lin. 

His sentiments were echoed when South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, also current Chairperson of the AU, told the organization recently that if there was ever a time for global unity, solidarity and cooperation, this is that time. 

"Working together, we will be able to overcome this challenge," he said. 


South African military personnel attend a video conference with their counterparts from the People's Liberation Army of China to share their experience of combating COVID-19 in Pretoria, South Africa, on May 8 (XINHUA)

SA moves forward    

In his assessment of progress made since the declaration in March of the National State of Disaster in South Africa, Ramaphosa has been cautious to not ease lockdown regulations prematurely. South Africa has a 5-level lockdown plan (with 5 being the most severe level and 1 being a near return to normality). Each level allows for gradual easing of economic activity and people's movement. 

In his May 14 address to the nation through a live television broadcast, Ramaphosa hinted his intention to move to Level 3 in June. 

South Africans, said Ramaphosa, have "demonstrated great courage, resilience and responsibility." 

Ramophosa said without the lockdown, the number of COVID-19 infections would have soared uncontrollably, and the country's health facilities would have been overwhelmed and many thousands more South Africans would have died. 

"From the very beginning, our response has been guided by advice from world-leading experts from our own country and across the globe," he said, "We have also benefited from the guidance from the WHO. The experiences that other nations have been through have also given us invaluable insights." 

He continued to say that as it stands, there are 219 people in South Africa who have succumbed to this disease, much lower than the U.S. and UK at similar stages. 

The level of confirmed infections in South Africa was around 181 people per million of the population as of May 14. Out of the 12,074 confirmed cases in South Africa, a total of 4,745 had recovered. 

"By delaying the spread of the disease, we have been able to strengthen the capacity of our health system and to put in place wide-ranging public health programs to better manage the inevitable increase in infections," said Ramaphosa.   

Innovative medical conference 

On May 8, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China and the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) held a video conference regarding sharing experience and practices on combatting COVID-19. Military medical experts from both sides exchanged information at the video conference that PLA had held for the first time with African countries.  

Seven Chinese military medical experts and some officers from the Medical Service Directorate of the Logistic Support Department of Central Military Commission discussed what they had learned about treatment of COVID-19 patients, analysis of important cases, management and control of COVID-19 in hospitals, and COVID-19 testing technology and methods. 

The two militaries intend to continuing developing a partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the field of military medical care, to ensure that both the SANDF and PLA are able to contribute more to their respective nation's efforts to combat the virus.   

Speaking at the meeting, Lieutenant General Lindile Yam, Chief of Staff of the SANDF, thanked the Chinese experts for sharing their experience and also for the PLA's support during COVID-19. 

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