South Africa is about to enter another state of disaster. It’s a chilling concept, after all the last one saw smoking grannies turned into garage forecourt hustlers, night shift workers smokkeling for cooked chickens and bootleggers burning WhatsApp groups with coded booze drop offs.
The last state of disaster, which made a kind of sense for the first 21 days and then exponentially less for the 750 days it eventually lasted for, didn’t really stop the transfer of the COVID 19 virus, but it did criminalise a lot of ordinary South Africans from living their best lives. And it tanked the economy too.
The beginning was understandable, there was no modern playbook for dealing with the kind of disruption the Coronavirus brought and the catastrophe that awaited us if the government didn’t act. There was also the horrid context of the Thabo Mbeki regime, where his administration’s wilful championing of fake science and withholding of critical anti-retroviral regimens literally killed hundreds of thousands of people every year that he was in office.
But none of that could excuse the gleeful, and wholly pointless, Stalinist interventions of Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration in the minutiae of daily life. It certainly couldn’t excuse the PPE profiteering scandal, which shamed the New Dawn, reaching right into the outer offices of the Presidential suite at the Union Buildings. It couldn’t excuse the egregious behaviour of ministers publicly flouting the lockdown. It could not excuse the appalling inability of the South African Police Service to stop any crime but lockdown infractions, creating a literal red-letter day for GBV thugs.
Now we are in a power crisis.
It’s not new; there’s half a generation of South Africans who have never known life without power cuts. It’s not as if there isn’t a playbook for this either; the ANC won kickbacks for directing tenders to build the biggest coal burning power stations in the southern hemisphere that should already have solved the problem. The fact that both Medupi and Kusile are horrifically overbudget, unfit for purpose and prone to breakdowns is not South Africa’s fault, but the ANC’s.
The only reason there’s now a state of disaster is because the self-same government created it. It’s getting worse and there’s a general election around the corner. And so, the answer will be for the ruling party to give itself blanket authority to flout whatever oversight remains and effectively buy a solution (probably the loathed Turkish offshore floating kettles) with money it doesn’t have indebting future generations in a last-ditch desperate bid to cling to power.
This week lockdown tsarina Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma refused to reveal the minutes of her decisions during the pandemic. She’s going to go to court to fight a court order compelling her to be transparent after the fact.
The answer should be so much simpler. We should have a constitutional amendment that any government that has to invoke more than one national state of disaster in its five-year term, should be immediately dissolved and a general election called.
That way we get a vote about our future too – before it’s a fait accompli.
Originally published by the Saturday Star on 4 February 2023.