In his weekly letter from the president’s desk (13 April), pres. Ramaphosa lamented the vandalism that had caused the demolition of schools, describing it as “a great indictment of our society”. He pointed to the despicable implications: “When lock-down is lifted and learning resumes, thousands of our children will have no school to return to, depriving them of the right to education…”
The irony of his words is that the government is currently the vandal-in-chief. The damage done to schools in the president’s lament of four months ago is dwarfed into insignificance when compared to the destruction its lock-down strategy is inflicting on South Africans.
The sheer magnitude of their destruction boggles the mind. They have:
- destroyed at least one in five salaried positions in the private sector. Bankserv data indicate 20.7% fewer salaries and wages were processed in June 2020 compared to a year before. (These people are not necessarily unemployed as yet, a large percentage has been furloughed);
- added at least 2 million of their citizens to the ranks of the unemployed since the start of lock-down;
- successfully scuttled private sector investment of at least R12.8 billion by Heineken, Anheuser-Busch Inbev, Consol and Distell, thereby contributing to the de-industrialisation of the country;
- undermined profitability in the private sector by deciding what essential and non-essential businesses are, thus disrupting the free individual choice to buy and procure;
- shuttered the businesses of hundreds of thousands in the tourism, hospitality and personal services industries;
- acted like white-ants, hollowing out large tracts of central business districts and shopping centres, leaving brittle thin façades, and tearing the once solid intricate relationships of investors, tenants and the public to shreds;
- magnified the problem of poverty on an unprecedented scale.
It is tantamount to an anti-business campaign and the destruction of livelihoods that will probably be ranked with that of the infamous Nongquase. Apart from the drastic promotion of poverty, the strategy will also accelerate the departure of South Africa from the ranks of the upper-middle income countries.
An orgy for the well-connected
During lock-down, the more than 2.1 million public servants (all three spheres) have received their salaries on time and without even the suggestion of a cut. Many of them, we know, are still not in office. And the funds diverted from normal budget lines to ensure sufficient PPE and hospital equipment, has caused an orgy for the well-connected.
To paraphrase the president’s words:
“The demolition of businesses, jobs, investments and the workings of free enterprise is a great indictment of our government.
It has despicable implications: When lock-down is lifted and life resumes, millions will be poorer, out of jobs, having no businesses to return to, depriving them of their right to earn a living and a decent life.”
It is time not to adjust some regulations, but to cease the lock-down forthwith. The evidence that lock-down is not essential to combat Covid 19 is everywhere to be read and assessed for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Likewise, the evidence of the destruction of livelihoods through lock-down is available in abundance.
The question is whether the government, hell-bent on not admitting its strategic blunder, will pay attention.
Or will they continue to act with the arrogance of the Pharaoh?