South Africa’s decisive, early call to go into lockdown has saved countless lives.
They’re countless because we will never know exactly how COVID-19 would have spread, overwhelming our unprepared healthcare sector as we battled to play catch up.
For that decisive action, South Africans should be very thankful.
What we do now know, after seven weeks under a national lockdown, is that the tide of opinion seems to be turning, and many South Africans are calling for the easing of restrictions, both on our freedoms and our economy.
President Ramaphosa may have announced earlier in the week that alert level 3 is on the horizon (at least for some parts of the country, with Cape Town looking dicey), but that hasn’t stopped many journalists from sharpening their pens.
Nobody writes a scathing takedown quite like the Daily Maverick’s Richard Poplak (exhibit A, in case you had forgotten), and he’s now unleashed on what he calls “an atmosphere of deep secrecy and anti-democratic tendencies”, led by “Ramaphosa and his executive technocracy”.
Here are some zingers:
The command and control economy that the ANC is currently cos-playing — a Stalinist fantasyland of mandated winter wear and forbidden shoelaces — is an authoritarian circle-jerk capped off by a nightly curfew. And no one should ever meekly accept a restriction on movement, unless the rationale has been deeply considered, thoroughly explained, and implemented with wide consensus. That is the baseline position from which all democracies must operate.
…I find the general love for the president surprising, considering that he has governed by fiat, employing a National Coronavirus Command Council – a sort of watered-down but still unaccountable war council – to drive state-of-disaster policymaking that has dispensed with anything resembling transparency.
Covid-19 is a virus, not a massive Wakandan army thundering toward Pretoria on vibranium-powered rhinos. Despite the terminology employed across the world to turn us into unthinking replicants who do as we’re told, we are not at war.
A Black Panther mention there, which should earn him a few points with Marvel fans.
As we wrote yesterday, perhaps it is time President Ramaphosa took questions from the media, rather than delivering an address, and Poplak agrees:
When was the last time the president of this country held an actual press conference? When did he last answer a simple bloody question? When did he face us down and defend his position without sending his proxies to do the dirty work?
Again, Ramaphosa has had ample opportunity to show us who he is, and from his years in business, his re-entering politics only to become a key figure in the Marikana massacre, his tacit acceptance of Zuma’s kleptocracy, and his newfound avuncular authoritarianism. (It’s time Cyril’s critics stood up and started yelling.)
In case you were in any doubt, Poplak reckons it is time we end the lockdown, but I’ll let him tell you:
And when the real hunger starts — and we’re well on our way — the whole system of subsistence grants in exchange for obedience will start to unravel. The seven weeks that Ramaphosa has very successfully purchased to prepare us for the coming plague have now come to an end, and another phase must begin: at all costs, we need to take care of the people on the edge, regardless of what Moody’s might say, while acknowledging that no lockdown is possible in the country’s densest, poorest regions. This fiction must end, and along with it the deep secrecy that is Cyril Ramaphosa’s default.
As the academic Shoshana Zuboff has noted, even in massively stratified and complex societies, we all get the deal: our inequalities are not sustainable, and the coming race/class war will not be stalled by Covid-19. Following the fake lockdown, it’s time to start feeding people until the virus is done with its awful, inevitable work.
I’d have to disagree with the notion that the ‘virus gonna do what the virus gonna do’, which sounds rather sacrificial, but there is plenty of food for thought in some of his other comments.
Also, just hazarding a guess here, but I reckon Poplak may have run out of booze and cigarettes a while back.
Going cold turkey has tested the resilience of many defending the extended nature of our lockdown.
You only had to hear Ramaphosa rattle off the stats from the UK and America to be thankful we aren’t led by a tousle-haired fool, and it was refreshing to see him own the mistakes our government has made thus far.
From here on out, though, South Africans won’t be as forgiving as they were with the mask blunder.
Read Richard Poplak’s full article here.
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