Covid-19 is showing us the world in all its wonder and horror – often at the same time. Britain has been totally agog at a 99-year-old World War II veteran walking around his home 100 times before he turned 100 to raise money for the country’s beleaguered National Health Service.
His initial target of £1 000 has sailed past £26-million and now everyone has jumped on the bandwagon to praise him especially Britain’s Conservative government which is not only accused of underfunding the NHS in the first place, but also effectively culling much of its staff by enforcing Brexit.
It’s the very same institution, with those same immigrant nurses and doctors, that ministered to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his COVID-19 hour of need. In the meantime, billionaire Richard Branson who once fought tooth and nail to prevent British Airways getting a government bailout – and indeed once sued the NHS – has furloughed his staff and asked for a bailout. Victoria Beckham, with a £1.5-million handbag collection, has done the same.
Here at home, fresh from the merits of Woolworths being banned from selling piping hot rotisserie chicken instead of letting it cool first, people are starting to starve.
In typical South African style, it’s been a moment to cash in. By Monday, reports were coming in of wannabe tenderpreneurs supplying not more than R100 worth of groceries which were then being passed off in Mangaung and parts of the Eastern Cape as costing R1 200.
The Guptas’ gift to us wasn’t just the brickbat WMC, it was weaponised rent-seeking on a granular level; after all if they could get Eskom to pay them to buy a coal mine after getting government to force the original owners to sell to them, and then blithely supply the utility with kak coal at a premium, why shouldn’t low level ward councillors cash in one of the potentially greatest humanitarian disasters to befall this country?
There are plenty of South Africans who can and do, desperately, want to contribute to those less fortunate, but not if it means insulting those who need it most by funding another pair of Christian Louboutins for a compliant politician or a luxury SUV for a rent seeking middleperson. This is the true legacy – and real price – of state capture; visceral mistrust in the very government departments that should be looking after the most vulnerable.
We don’t have a Captain Tom Moore here. But thankfully we do have Imthiaz Sooliman and his Gift of the Givers Foundation. It’s the biggest disaster relief organisation on the continent – and the best. They have drilled 400 fully functional boreholes in the last 18 months in areas where drought-stricken municipalities are wholly dysfunctional, now they are setting up COVID-19 testing stations, sourcing ventilators for hospitals and PPE for health workers, setting up triage tents.
This week they set out to donate 100 000 food parcels to the desperate. Their parcels actually feed a family of five for a month – and they only cost R350.
If you do one thing this weekend, donate to them instead. (https://giftofthegivers.org/make-a-difference/)
Originally published on 25 April 2020 in the Saturday Star