SA hates lies and deceit – and seems to hate honesty too

When Zweli Mkhize announced on Sunday night that the first million doses of Astra Zeneca wouldn’t work on the ‘South African” variant, the response was as torrential as it was intemperate. When he announced in the next breath that the vaccine was set to expire in a couple of months’ time; the haters went into raptures. You would have thought Uncle Cyril had popped down to Woolworths and blithely betted the month’s housekeeping on a bottle of milk without checking the label.

It’s slightly more complex than that. Complexity – and nuance – isn’t something that we do too well as South Africans. It’s literally black and white. You can blame it on the millennial culture, but in truth it’s just because we’re too superficial; too lazy to remember and too bigoted to consider any thing we don’t agree with. Google doesn’t help; we have never had more access to information than we have now – and we’ve never been less informed. 

After moaning that the government didn’t have a plan to acquire vaccines, we moan when all of a sudden, they do. After moaning that we’re never kept in the loop, we moan when Mkhize fronts up and announces that the efficiency of the vaccines isn’t much more than 20 percent on the 501Y.V2 variant. That’s the South African Variant to the rest of the world, so called because it was our scientists who had the decency to tell the rest of the world what they’d found – unlike others who kept quiet, with catastrophic global consequences. Our scientists have been crucified for being ethical. Mkhize got hammered for being transparent.

What would we rather have had happen? For him to remain silent and inject people with something little better than a panacea? Into the arms of many who already think it’s a Microsoft/ White Minority Capital plot to either make money or control our minds – or both? We should actually be grateful that the government is being honest and upfront. It wasn’t always like that. 

While we’re at it, let’s not forget our history with pandemics either: Thabo Mbeki was internationally accused of generational genocide for his woeful mismanagement of our HIV/ Aids crisis. Jacob Zuma actually fixed it by facilitating the massive roll out of anti-retrovirals to make AIDS a chronic disease, rather thana death sentence. Today we remember one as a fiscal saint and the other as the anti-Christ of State Capture. 

History’s strange like that. If you dig a bit deeper, the more the nuances emerge: like the fact that Cyril Ramaphosa was deputy president to Zuma at the nadir of the kleptocracy or that it was Ramaphosa who Zuma formally appointed to oversee the fixing of the SOEs that cripple us to this day. The RET’s Stratcom 2.0 has already started weaponizing this to demonise Ramaphosa and derail the Zondo Commission.

Don’t forget the context – and your own lived reality – then and now when the narrative starts getting seriously warped in the weeks to come. It’s a pity that there’s no expiry date on our own gullibility.

Originally published by the Saturday Star on 13 February 2021.