The impact of Covid-19 has brutally exposed the chasms between the haves and the have-nots

On Sunday evening Bafana legend Benni McCarthy was named PSL coach of the season. His coaching has come a long way since the day he was famously caught on camera as Cape Town City coach mouthing off from the side-lines in exasperation at an opposition player fouling one of his.

His loyal fans were adamant that he’d been saying “you mustn’t push’, contrary to what everyone else thought. Many of us will have felt like uttering that this week.

The Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, was placed on special leave by President Cyril Ramaphosa ostensibly to allow him time to respond to allegations that he benefited from a R150-million communications tender given to two of his former staff.

It took Ramaphosa long enough to act. Many imagined that the reason for the delay was the critical job Mkhize (paid for publicity notwithstanding) was doing and the need to find someone fitting to replace him during the greatest public health crisis in living memory. Someone who, if not a doctor, was at least versed in medicine and public health, rather than the University of Google

But, no, Mkhize’s replacement won’t be his deputy, who is a doctor, but the Minister of Tourism – a department that has existed in name only during 18 months of global lockdown. Against the backdrop of our vaccine acquisition and the turgid roll out of the inoculation programme, it does seem a little like Des “Weekend Special” van Rooyen becoming finance minister 

It was a ‘you mustn’t push’ moment, that was beaten perhaps only by the president’s last Friday that our millionaire MPs struggle to make do on their salaries and their perks, in a country where a third of the country is on one social grant or another and the government couldn’t even afford to extend the R350 a month COVID grant.

And then Eskom came to the party, or didn’t, announcing much of a week’s worth of load shedding. Couldn’t they all be put on special leave until it’s over asked the wags on social media?

The truth though is that most of us don’t have the wherewithal to sit at home on fully paid special leave. The impact of COVID 19 has brutally exposed the chasms between the haves and the have-nots, whether you want to blame the legacy of apartheid or the kleptocracy of state capture: Unemployment is at a historic high, youth unemployment is an absolute time bomb. Those who did have jobs before lockdown have either lost their jobs or had their salaries slashed if they were lucky enough to keep them.

The only people ironically who don’t really seem to have born any brunt are public servants and politicians – and yet they are the ones pleading poverty.

The president is going to find out soon enough that you mustn’t push South Africans. If they feel they’re being taken for a push, they’ll push back, big time.

And when that happens, load shedding or no load shedding, the president seriously shouldn’t be shocked, because then he’ll be seriously taking us a for a push.

Originally published by Saturday Star on 12 June 2021.