Hey, have you heard that open letters are back in fashion again?
In times of national crisis, they tend to crop up on social media, and the past few weeks have been no different.
Gareth Cliff recently penned an open letter to President Ramaphosa, which has been met with a mixed reaction, and we also published South African marketing guru Mike Abel’s open letter.
That one was addressed to Ministers Dlamini-Zuma, Patel and Cele, but CC’d with President Ramaphosa, Dr Mkhize and all South Africans, so you don’t feel left out.
You can read it here.
In response, Nkululeko Mvulana has written his own open letter, this time addressed to Mike.
Nkululeko is the CEO of Sandulela Technology, an executive committee member at Kazang, and serves as Chairman of the school governing council of Western Province Preparatory School (often called Wetpups) in Cape Town.
He says he writes in his “personal capacity as a voting South African”.
Over to Nkululeko’s letter, dated May 3 and reproduced in full below…
In response to your open letter to Dlamini-Zuma, Dr Mkhize, Patel and Cele:
Dear Mike Abel,
Is it possible the coronavirus pandemic is the spectrum through which most South Africans have begun to see glaring realities on our doorstep? I for one find myself in a state of cognitive dissonance.
I have to say you write with such passion and clarity. I thought your letter to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was well composed, thank you for your patriotism. I congratulate you for having done well in business, 30 years of hard work would be nothing if not rewarded with success. You are terribly lucky it has not gone to waste but rather entitled you to a position in society. It is heart-warming to read that you are somebody who is “exponentially more concerned about the plight of the poor, than yourself” an area in which I have similar interest. Sadly, I could not find any content to countenance this assertion in your letter. I hope to meet some day to shoot the breeze on the subject of the poor.
You refer eloquently to the compact of trust between the government and its citizens in any democracy. I have never been able to use “compact” in syntax I hope I have understood it. Sir without going too far in history, I recall when Cyril announced lockdown on 26 March 2020 and subsequently on 9 April, the nation was unanimous in support despite its seemingly draconian configuration. Adherence to the collective wisdom and counsel of the National Command Council (NCC) was resounding. Through uncertainty, we accepted their authority absolutely. Saying that, I note your understanding that; “the purpose of lockdown was to keep people at home whilst our health services prepared for an onslaught of the virus.” Surely that was not the reason? I do recall hearing “flattening the curve of infection” offered as some of the reasoning for this excessively harsh and severe lockdown. If my assessment misses the point, I apologise.
Assuming you are correct that the main purpose of lockdown was to buy time for our health sector, are you suggesting the health service is ready for the onslaught of COVID-19 as you put it? Has it come time to boldly rescind the pact we made with the NCC, go out and purchase bras and cigarettes indiscriminately?
When we should be celebrating and protecting achievement of the low infection rate after 5 weeks of lockdown, you use this occasion to bargain with the NCC, government and our health. The very NCC that achieved this outcome through application of the same lockdown measures which are the subject of your derision. What about learnings from Italy or the UK? What about our own peak projected in July? What of the lessons from Wuhan? Exactly what has changed since 9 April, Mike?
You make a desperate plea for the poorest of our country without actually offering anything more than “they need to return to work so that the horror of poverty and starvation doesn’t dramatically eclipse the potential death toll of Covid.” What are you talking about? Without nit-picking, are you aware that South Africa has one the highest number of destitute and displaced as a result of an abnormally iniquitous social strata which continues to breed traumatic levels of ineptitude? Are you familiar with the enormous amounts of provisions to welfare in our fiscus to aid an ever-increasing number of indigent South Africans? Has it deserved your outpouring concern for the poor hitherto? Have you applied your mind to government’s unprecedented COVID-19 relief stimulus package announced over a week ago which aims to support business, big and small with tax relief among other measures, including support to employees who might be out of work?
While you contemplate your extended cycling hours in Cape Town and ridiculing the NCC for treating you like a child, the levers of government are hard at work grappling with the herculean effort of distributing R500 billion promptly and equitably. Why not train your energy on that and try to help?
Mike, I am sure you mean well. I empathise with the harrowing inconvenience caused by the illogical decision to give us limited hours of exercise which has shoehorned Cape Town into 90 minutes as you say. We are in Level 4 lockdown after all, can we forgo our civil liberties for just a minute and have some perspective? I went for a leisurely run this morning through the leafy southern suburbs of Cape Town. Attentive to the 5km radius rule, I intended to run 10km. I left home early braving the darkness before dawn giving myself enough time to navigate through teeming human wildlife before 9am. Alas, I ran my personal best, not a soul in sight! I fear the rain might embolden you to argue your point on exercise. Be careful what you wish for…
To Cyril Ramaphosa, I say vasbyt Mr President. Try not to confuse “elected” with “ruling” in your party parlance. Do get on with the work of fighting this insidious and invisible COVID-19 and let us know when it is safe to let our guard down. I am however concerned that in Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma you do not have a poster child for prudence. Her legacy is her anathema and ultimately your bete noire. She should not lead the dialogue on re-opening our economy, and you have erred in giving her the authority. Her lack of eloquence and diminished public stature creates a soft landing for Mike and his ilk persuaded by politics of special interest.
Mr Abel, I should caution against cavalier expression of admiration for the moral authority of the former ANC leadership you name. No one is beyond reproach, including you. I want to suggest very kindly that you and Gareth Cliff sit this one out. I am certain there are countless other ways you can add value to South Africa than write provocative and incitement open letters. Remember what your mum taught you, “Behaviour is truth.”
There ends the letter.
Again, the above are the views of Nkululeko, writing in his personal capacity.
Mike, if you want to respond, we’ll happily put you in touch with Nkululeko, and you guys can talk it out. We’re not publishing an open letter in response to the response to the open letter.
Oh no, I’ve gone cross-eyed.
Now, please, for the good of everyone, can we put an end to open letters?
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