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by Gerhard Papenfus

It has never happened before, and it is not supposed to be happening now.

In South Africa, since the outbreak of Covid-19, 131 people has died as a result of Covid-19 symptoms. That is 1 fatality out of every 452 000 people. Yet, as a result of the lockdown, large parts of the economy lies in tatters.

How is this even possible? Is this the result of scientists’ need to understand everything and, unless they do, to go into panic mode, advising others to take ridiculous, unjustifiable actions, like locking down the world, hiding in bubbles and acting in incomprehensible ways? Is this the way in which we are, in future, going to deal with every new bug challenging our safety? It would seem so, if we continue to rely on clever, albeit not wise people.

Robert Hanlon once said that we must “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. In simpler terms (Google’s explanation), some bad things happen, not because of people having bad intentions, but because they did not contemplate properly.

Let’s give government the benefit of the doubt, at least as far as their initial approach towards the handling of the Coronavirus is concerned, when they enjoyed overwhelming support, including that of the author hereof, for their ‘give up your liberty or you are all going to die’ approach. Like the rest of the world, they acted on incorrect advice. Like the rest of the world, they did not think this through. They simply wanted to excel in tackling this challenge in the manner that the popular narrative, at the time, dictated.

Here is a government that wanted to show the world how it is done. Although government’s poor policies, in almost every respect, caused South Africa’s financial woes, over many years prior to Covid-19, they almost convinced us that they got this one right. It may well prove that this was their biggest blunder ever.

There is the saying that you must never allow a good crisis to go to waste. And surely, government is not wasting this one. Both the President, with his ‘fault lines in society’ emphasis, and our de facto Prime Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, adding that “Covid-19 offers ‘us’ (by which she means ‘them’) an opportunity to accelerate the implementation of long agreed-upon structural changes to enable reconstruction, development and growth”. By now we know what that means: deconstruction, regression and declining growth; increased unemployment, more poverty and deepened inequality. In this, they see their opportunity.

Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma continues to say that “these opportunities call for more sacrifices and – if need be – what Amilcar Cabral called ‘class suicide’ wherein we must rally behind the common cause”.

Long lines of hungry people, waiting for food parcels where there is, incidentally, no so-called ‘social distancing’, does not pose any concern; that is ‘their’ opportunity. Make them poor, make them dependent, then feed them; but always insist that you are busy uplifting them. What a sham?

The initial purpose may have been the three-week lockdown, to lower the curve in order to buy time for the medical services to prepare for the hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 patients. It may have been the purpose then, but it is no longer government’s purpose. The purpose now, driven by a Zumaîte, is radical economic transformation.

One of the sacrifices that Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma asks from us is “responsible behaviour which includes not spreading fake news”. Then start acting responsibly and stop spreading fake news, Minister.

The ‘sound scientific data’, which caused the overreaction at the beginning, is no longer credible, unless one irrationally favours that type of data over other credible data. Many governments, like ours, which overreacted, and now finds themselves in a corner, continues to confirm the initial narrative created at the outset, and now have to live with it while society carries the burdensome consequences.

“Use your common sense instead of the rhetoric of leaders”. Was it Socrates that said that? It does not matter who said it, now is the time to follow this advice.

For more information:
NEASA Media Department

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