As we get closer to the hopeful downgrade (or should I say upgrade?) to level three of the lockdown in South Africa, we are still left in a state of general confusion. While the vast majority of us supported the decision to go into a hard lockdown, we are now left questioning every decision made, trying to decipher the rules and regulations imposed by the government and trying to decide if the constant state of uncertainty, and safety of our own homes, outweighs the risk of the virus and its detrimental effect on our society, economy and mental health.
I am under no delusions of grandeur, and don’t think that any decision made by our current government was easy or made without serious contemplation and discussion. And, for the most part, I agree with the decisions, but some have obvious grey areas which leave us scratching our doubt-filled heads.
While I understand that there are a large number of these decisions and other contentious issues, I only have enough sanity remaining, after 60 days of lockdown, to discuss the two most questionable and, in my mind, the least logical ones.
Fortunately, with lockdown level three, we will be permitted to exercise at any time of day, but looking back on the regulations, which are still under enforcement as I write this, dictating that we should exercise between 6am and 9am within a 5km radius of our homes seems completely unreasonable.
The obvious head-scratcher here is the bottlenecking of our citizens within that small window. Yes, maybe the Honourable President and some of his Ministers live in suburbs where the concentration of citizens is low due to the size of their plots, but we do not. I’m fairly certain the rest of us who have been out in the cold and dark streets to exercise in the allocated time slot have noticed how packed they are. Surely this creates a far greater risk of infections than allowing exercise at a time of your own convenience? And this is not overlooking the dim-witted decision to close the mountains governed by SANPARKS, the beaches, the public parks and the greenbelts. This decision just added to the concentration of citizens in the streets during the three-hour window afforded to us.
However, I will give credit where credit is due and applaud President Ramaphosa’s decision to listen to the people and backtrack on this earlier mishap. Nonetheless, it has me questioning how many of the new cases of coronavirus that were confirmed during level four could have been avoided if not for this policy and other rules that only permitted certain activities during short time windows – leading to more concentrated gatherings.
Beyond that, I question the government’s foresight.
Have they really thought their decisions through? Do they play the scenarios out in their heads or are decisions made on a whim? If there had not been a public outcry over the exercise rules, would they have adjusted the policy? Or are ordinary South African citizens just smarter in general than our elected leader and his team of “experts”? The last question is one that is incredibly pertinent. We have lived for years under an incompetent government. But, unlike before, lives are at stake and we can’t afford this kind of incompetency.
Secondly, we have all seen the few small-minded Facebook warriors commenting that the sale of alcohol and cigarettes doesn’t affect them because they don’t drink or smoke. I suppose ignorance is bliss, but let’s take a brief look at the bigger picture. There have, and will continue to be, job losses of epic proportions. And not only in those two industries (I will get to that shortly). SAB alone, have estimated job losses of up to 2,000 (nearly 50% of their workforce) within their payroll, and another 75,000 jobs which could be adversely affected by the company’s supply chain.
What about the little guys? The packers and stackers in the breweries and loading areas? Do you think they are safe if the bigwigs aren’t safe either? The simple answer is no.
There are similar projections within the Tobacco Industries. Also, companies that buy directly from alcohol and tobacco suppliers will close as they’re not allowed to sell these products. Are you still unsure of how this will all affect you? Quite simply put, those that lose their jobs will have less. That means less money to spend on luxury items.
Families who previously paid thousands every year for coaching, dancing, horse riding lessons, music lessons and the likes will no longer have spare cash for these things. No more takeaways or eating out. No more weekend getaways that push money into our struggling tourism sector. They will not be buying cars and trading them in every 5 year. They will no longer be able to afford their domestic worker, who has been with them for years, or their green-fingered gardener, who perfectly trims their hedges. Those that lose their jobs and were not higher up in their companies are more likely to be the ones who won’t find more work. Some may even have to turn to crime to support their families.
High unemployment has always been directly linked to higher crime rates. The money lost in these formal and informal sectors will be devastating, and, guess what? More job losses will follow. Have I not hit the industry you work in? Let us take a step back and consider the gargantuan loss in government revenue from sin tax. Here is the kicker: who gets hit with higher taxes because of this loss? You.
My main concern surrounding the banning of alcohol and tobacco products is the underlying and associated illicit trade thereof, as well as the possible links to corruption at the highest levels within our government.
As a nation, we will be welcoming the upgrade to Level 3 but dreading the possibility of previously uncommunicated rules and regulations that appear to come with each new level. The President spoke to us this last Sunday and mentioned alcohol would be on sale from the 1st of June, but if I can leave you, the reader, with any advice, don’t finish your drinks until that liquor store door is open.
The U-turns by ministers must end. Transparency, clarity, and conciseness need to become paramount in the communication of all future decisions.
This opinion article was written by a guest writer, Jacques Meredith. Jacques works as a Real Estate Agent and is an avid follower of South African news and politics. If you’d like to write for the Essential Millennial, please contact us and we’ll help you spread your story far and wide.