The fine art of showing solidarity

The lockdown has stress-tested all of us, in every possible way, but for small and medium business owners it’s been especially tough. For those in the tourism and hospitality business it’s been nothing short of catastrophic.

The sector, perennially touted by the government as the panacea to what was once a turgid economy – rather than one in freefall – provides a disproportionate number of jobs. It’s understandable too why this sector is agitating for a lessening of the restrictions, especially after government caved on the taxis last week.

There’s an art to showing solidarity though but – as we have seen – not everyone gets it and there’s few who don’t get it quite as spectacularly as Kevin Pietersen, the South African born England cricketer.

Unlike Gareth Cliff who at least the temerity to write Uncle Cyril an open letter, the best KP could manage was an angry tweet on Tuesday, illustrated by a suitable picture of him kneeling thoughtfully a safe distance from two bored rhino.

“I cannot for the life of me understand how USELESS the South African government is being with its tourism industry! You, @CyrilRamaphosa @PresidencyZA should be sorting this!!!!!! It’s employs MILLIONS of YOUR people!!!!!! 7.5M people!!!! Without tourism, the animals will go!” he wrote.

To which journalist Lester Kiewit asked, where will the animals go? It’s a fair question, after all they’re wild – by definition.

The inimitable Chester Missing weighed in shortly after: “Kev proving yet again that if black people had told white people they were rhinos apartheid would’ve ended 10 years earlier. And who TF are ‘YOUR people’? The government can do better, but start with yourself dude.”

Pietersen came back reasonably strongly: “YOUR people are South Africans. Cyril keeps mentioning OUR people.”

It was a short-lived respite: Amanda Rinquest had him in the next delivery: “anyway Kevin, we know this is about that luxury lodge you own, stop pretending you care about the ‘millions of [Cyril’s] people’.”

As Kiewit put it:

On close of day One, KP24 is 7.5m/ ALL OUT.
1. c/b A. Rinquest
2. b A. Rinquest
3. stumped A. Rinquest
4. b A. Rinquest
5. b A. Rinquest
6. st A. Rinquest
7. b A. Rinquest
8. lbw A. Rinquest
9. ro A. Rinquest
10. b A. Rinquest

COVID 19 has brought out the best and the worst in all of us. Celebrities – who really don’t know any better – have perhaps been the most unmasked of all. This is really the time for compassion and care. But when it’s done for ulterior motives – virtue signalling or personal agendas – it almost always ends badly, ask the (literally) tone deaf 25 Hollywood celebs who mangled John Lennon’s Imagine when the lockdown began.

Far from inspiring people during the worst global health crisis in living memory, it probably encouraged them to risk a horrible asphyxiating death just to avoid hearing it.

As for Petersen, any job lost is a tragedy but it’s debatable how many South Africans could have afforded R19 000 a night to stay at his lodge on the banks of the Sabie River – even before Lockdown cratered the economy.

Originally published on 25 July 2020 in the Saturday Star