Breath and the inspiration of air into the human corporeal form have long been central to considering the relationship between the human the metaphysical across various traditions, whether the religious traditions of Abrahamic thought, or so-called pagan traditions. In analytical responses to the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, many phrased the oppression and thanatic impulses of the dictatorships in terms of trouble with breathing (Baranczak among others). Recently the murder of George Floyd became the fulcrum in a movement to reclaim ‘the right to breathe’ (metaphorically and literally) in what is often considered one of the longest-surviving and leading democracies in which the repressive working of the state has long blighted the self-image of the state. Here in South Africa, a polity blighted with breathing troubles related to disease (tuberculosis and silicosis, central to the industrialisation over the last 100 years) but also repression, there is now an intensified scrutiny of obstacles to ‘the right to breathe’ and the State failure to enable rather than hamper that right, metaphorically as well as literally. Now, through the Covid-crisis, breathing is once more prominent in public debate. This presentation will explore how current concerns with breathing as life in contemporary South Africa’s attempt to deal with the Covid-crisis are metonymic of larger concerns in late industrial capitalism with concerns over the right to life, epitomised by the right to breath and to breathe.