It’s a new year, yet 2023 already feels like the gloom is worsening

Perhaps the truest reflection on the state of our country is not what was said at the ANC’s January 8 statement, but everything else around it. Cyril Ramaphosa, aka Ramasopha, is a cartoonists’ dream, his to do list may as well be last year’s with the date crossed out and 2023 scribbled at the top. He could even use his 2018 one.

But, as with all great punchlines, there’s a very real element of tragedy that underpins it. 

The Cape Town office of the Gift of the Givers (GotG) was robbed at the weekend. When you consider both the incredible work which the organisation does – much of which is the government’s responsibility but which it can’t or won’t do – and the incredible esteem in which GotG is held by ordinary South Africans, it’s an unthinkable act. 

But nothing is unthinkable in 2023: Stage 6 load shedding became the norm this week. The power utility’s outgoing CEO, Andre de Ruyter declared at the weekend, that he was poisoned the day he resigned. Ramaphosa’s response was De Ruyter quit because the job was tough. We all know it was. Ramaphosa’s own favourite minister, Gwede Mantashe, made damn sure of that.

In the Eastern Cape, Mboneli Vesele, the bodyguard of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Fort Hare Sakhela Buhlungu, was shot dead. He had been in the VC’s car which was sprayed with bullets. Last year, the university’s fleet and transport manager Petrus Roets was shot dead. 

The rationale behind the Eskom and the UFH crimes is the same – to stop any effort to take out the criminal networks that have taken root and flourished in almost every part of our society. The rationale behind the GotG theft of laptops, TVs and donations for fire victims, was theft. Perhaps the criminals were desperate. Perhaps they thought they could just get away with it. It’s the question that will be answered soon enough, because the police apprehended 11 suspects within a couple of days.

 As for UFH, there has been a whole pattern of attacks and the police have done nothing so far. Will anything change now that the death toll has doubled? It depends on who blinks first, the good guys or the bad guys. Do all the little corruption schemes come to an end and the bad guys go to jail, or does the administration just turn a blind eye and let the bullies win?

The stakes are higher at Eskom – a potential total grid meltdown as the patronage networks tighten the screws. Cyril the Meek, can’t say he wasn’t warned. It’s a little bit more than a ‘tough job’ it’s a warzone – we’ve hit Stage 6 at a time when the economy hasn’t even returned from the Christmas break. What’s going to happen next week? 

But perhaps the biggest question is how long the average South African is just going to keep sitting back and sucking it all up? That’s a much more threatening Kraken waiting to be unleashed than the latest COVID-variant festering in the wings.

Originally published in the Saturday Star on 14 January 2023.