Covid-19 proves to be a great leveller

And so, it came to pass that South Africa officially entered the second wave of COVID 19. In other news the final Rage scheduled for the year – in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa’s playground for the privileged – has been cancelled. The two are not unrelated.

Rage is a comparatively new phenomenon, borrowed like so much else from the US. It’s a Spring Break for matrics who have just finished their exams. There’s always been  a rage of sorts at the coast for those who can afford it – a week of hard partying; carousing, fornication, vomiting and alcohol poisoning – but in recent years it’s been industrialised as night club operators and entrepreneurs realised the amount of money that they make before the Christmas season gets underway.

Rage is the antithesis of social distancing – in every imaginable way. Mixing hormones, booze/recreational drugs and youth was never going to guarantee any kind of responsible behaviour, so why – after an unprecedented year of social isolation, almost cratering the economy in the process, did it go ahead?

The easy answer would be to blame the organisers. In typical South African style, they duly became the archvillains when Zweli Mkhize declared Rage a “super-spreader” event last weekend. But it totally ignores one salient fact; Rage wouldn’t exist up and down the South African coastline (with cheaper iterations in Gauteng) if there wasn’t a market for it.

It costs a lot of money to get down there, stay there and party until you’re in a stupor night after night for a week. South Africa’s gilded youth, all merrily infecting each other with COVID 19 this year, did so either entirely on mommy and daddy’s ticket or at least partly subsidised by their credit cards. So why didn’t the parents put their foot down? Why didn’t they close the tap on the cash?

You can’t leave home without putting on a mask, you can’t enter a shop without having your hands sanitised so often that it’s safer to smoke at a petrol station, and you can’t even queue without a gap. So, what made anyone think that sending their kids off to jol for a week would be miraculously different from a virological perspective? Any more than parents letting their boys go to the mountain for the annual rite of passage to become men, or communities gathering to attend after tears?

COVID 19 once again has proven to be a great leveller. There has been lots of finger pointing and eye-rolling in certain circles about the inability of particularly the Eastern Cape to contain the spread of the pandemic. It’s the same kind of hand wringing and overwrought gnashing of teeth that met the government’s overbearing nannying of all of us during the lockdown.

How incredibly ironic then that the children of those economically least affected by the lockdown, who were all privately educated since the government kids are still writing matric, should be at the vanguard of our second wave. If Cyril Ramaphosa cancels Christmas, don’t any of you who sent your kids to Durban dare call him the Grinch. Not this year.

Originally published on 12 December 2020 in Saturday Star