News & events


On democracy and authoritarianism: Systems, ideologies, freedom and vulnerabilities in the era of COVID-19

15 April 2020
09:30 - 11:30


Date: 15 April 2020 
Time: 09:30 -11:30

Zoom link:

Prof Narnia Bohler-Muller, Divisional Executive, DCES, HSRC

Prof Joleen Steyn-Kotze, SRS, DCES, HSRC
Prof Kate Alexander, Chair of Social Change, UJ
Prof William Gumede, Executive Chair for Democracy Works Foundation

Many governments across the globe have taken drastic measures to curb the infection rate of COVID19 through lockdowns, limiting social contact, and tracking and tracing citizens through their cellphones.

Some are concerned that a lasting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic could be a resurgence of authoritarianism.  Indeed, as Pearlman (2020) notes, this pandemic has geopolitical implications where we see a debate on the resilience of democracy in the time of COVID-19 or the rise of authoritarianism.

France, the UK and US have registered different responses from Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.  While some claim this as reflecting capacity of governments to deal with a public health crisis, a key question remains: how do constitutional democracies such as South Africa deal with COVID-19? Do or should states facing national disasters or emergencies hold on to human rights and constitutional obligations; and if they choose to limit rights and responsibilities, on what grounds do they do so and how do we test the fairness and reasonableness of the measures taken? 

This seminar will engage key questions on governance and the future of participatory democracy in an era of COVID-19.  Specifically, we will debate and engage questions on how regimes fare in the face of a pandemic, and how people are affected by measures taken.

Where does the balance lie?

Kindly RSVP by 14 April 2020

For further information contact: Arlene Grossberg

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DSI. Please also note that this seminar may be recorded and published on the HSRC podcast channel.

Zoom link: