Press Release: Social accountability essential in Southern Africa’s COVID-19 response

20 April 2020 – The Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance is calling on governments in Southern Africa to ensure all COVID-19 response and recovery plans are accountable and protect human rights, as well as strengthen public services and social protections.

In a statement released today, the PSA Alliance – a consortium of civil society organisations that holds governments across Southern Africa to account for providing quality public services in health and agriculture – welcomes the swift responses announced by governments across the region to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

But, even as governments declare national disasters and emergencies, they must remain accountable to their people for all decisions made. Leaders are required by law to explain and justify how public resources, as well as private donations and international relief funds, are planned, disbursed and spent, says the PSA Alliance’s statement.

Jay Kruuse, director of the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) says:

“Transparency in emergencies is paramount. In crises, there is increased risk of mismanagement and misappropriation of available funds and resources. Plans and budgets as well as financial and performance information must be openly and proactively provided to the public. Governments must provide spaces for public participation to inform appropriate emergency responses. Procurement of public services must be fast and efficient, but also guard against mismanagement and corruption.”

Ruchi Tripathi, head of ActionAid International’s programme on resilient livelihoods and climate justice, says:

Like all emergencies and humanitarian crises, the COVID-19 pandemic will hit women, the poor and the most marginalised the hardest. In Southern Africa, the crisis is exposing disastrous and tragic gaps in the delivery of public services such as healthcare.

The new debt crisis is undermining countries’ ability to invest sufficiently in strong public services. We’re calling for debt payments to be cancelled until 2022 and a moratorium on the conditions attached to loans which are preventing countries from investing in healthcare.

“We need leaders to hold themselves to the highest standards of accountability, particularly in times of crisis, ensuring delivery of key public services (such as healthcare and food) reaches those most affected.”


Rouzeh Eghtessadi, executive director of SAfAIDS says:

“The COVID-19 response must ensure accountability to the most vulnerable, including sustained and unrestricted access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, as well as medicines for people living with HIV. Governments must provide heightened safety measures for all patients and health workers,as well as non-restricted COVID-19 screening and testing services for immune-compromised individuals.

“In the long-term, governments should recognise and invest in social safety mechanisms, including resilient health systems that do not risk compromising access to relevant, affordable and quality SRH services in responding to national crises.”

Joseph Mzinga, regional coordinator of Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), says:

“Following last year’s Cyclones Kenneth and Idai and continued climatic shocks, Southern Africa is now facing even more dire economic challenges. Over 45 million people were already expected to face food shortages this year, and the COVID-19 crisis will mean even more will be affected.

“Accountable response and recovery measures should ensure farmers canguard against further interruptions of the region’s food supply. As smallholder farmers provide most of the food in Southern Africa, COVID-19 regulations must support them to produce and sell food even when local markets are shut down.Income guarantees for smallholder farmers, as well as informal workers, migrants, and unemployed are essential to prevent a human catastrophe.


For more information contact Julie Middleton, ActionAid International

Notes to editors:

The full PSA Alliance statement can be viewed here.