Forget the overhyped images of the food riots and the ridiculous rhetoric around rotisserie chicken. While those will be the lasting images and memories of this crisis, if you’re privileged enough to read this you probably never gave a crap about them before lockdown.
I’ve been in favour of a lockdown implemented to help bolster our medical industry for the inevitable crash of the COVID-19 tidal wave. We’re currently entrenched in the bowels of Hornsburg, waiting for Saruman’s forces to attack. (President Cyril Ramaphosa is Aragorn in this analogy, there is no Gandalf and Rohirrim cavalry to save us.) And those social restrictions have worked well.
Can we continue the siege for much longer? No. That is by far evidenced in government’s vocabulary around the phased re-opening of the economy. I’d also choose to believe that those steps are part of the strategy established ahead of this crisis response and not because of the open letters from various professional groups that is being widely circulated in the click hungry news media.
Look, I get it. Editors need to save jobs and that means keeping jobs going and running with any stories they can to keep the numbers up. Journalists are also starved of news sources because of the limited economic activity and that means every scrap of non-government gazetted news will be overanalysed to feed the 24 hour cycle.
The rise in looting is concerning, to say the least, but still just as isolated as many argue the effects of COVID-19 is. There are clear plans being implemented to assist the vulnerable communities who are hit hardest by the economic effects of the lockdown.
Food parcels and social grants are being circulated. Fact.
Our country’s welfare and communicable disease containment systems have been stress-tested like never before over the last month and have stood up like a Olympic weightlifter under a world record load. Is it pretty to watch? Hell no. Is it an achievement that may never be repeated again? Most likely.
A functional welfare system in an unequal society like ours is one of the great lasting legacies of our young democracy. It’s a wonderful testament to the true fundamentals underpinning a representative government that prioritises the needs of its own.
Imagine a global pandemic of this scale ripping through our community in the 70s? There wouldn’t be a South Africa to speak of right now.
There will be social restrictions in the medium term as we slowly turn the lights back on. Over 70 000 troops have been called on to protect our supply chains and address the looting and inevitable riots when those who find themselves outside the economy after lockdown get really pissed off.
It will be difficult, but we will endure.
In the past 30 years we have stood up to HIV, tuberculosis, devastating drought, global economic collapse and large-scale corruption all while trying to cast off the shackles of a social system engineered to stomp on the throat of the majority.
I’m in full support of the President’s idea that this lockdown is an opportunity to rebuild the economy to be more inclusive, agile and locally grounded. The fault lines were on full display during this difficult period and the economic stimulus package is a well-considered response to start bridging those gaps in our land.
Six months of increased social grants will take us into peak tourist season. We’re betting big on the world to have recovered enough to start travelling to cheap destinations again. It doesn’t get much cheaper than an emerging market country with a weak currency and world class infrastructure, that is also safe for business after successfully coping with the global pandemic.
South Africa will be open for business by Christmas and the way we handled and continue to handle this crisis is the biggest billboard for future investment.