EDITORIAL

Stealing from your own people is a crime; stealing during the pandemic is a crime against humanity

By Daily Maverick 2 August 2020
Caption
Original Photo: An ANC flag (EPA)

There should be a place in jail for everyone who steals from their own people. But there should be a place in Hell for those who find the fortitude within them to steal from the people during a pandemic.

 

“Show me a plague, and I’ll show you the world!”
— Larry Kramer

Some doctors emphasise the opportunistic nature of the coronavirus, and its uncanny precision in speeding up and augmenting the underlying comorbidities that were there all along.

Similarly, this merciless agent is also busy pushing the fragile and ageing citadel that is the South African state into the abyss. The destruction long-wreaked by the ruling elite’s disregard for the increasingly forgotten people was matched only by a clear disinterest in easing their suffering and an astonishing ideological shrillness that is less coherent than it is self-serving.

For too many years now and far too many times, the ANC’s party and government officials have behaved not only incompetently and dishonestly but downright immorally.

These elites have for so long behaved as though the state’s coffers are bottomless, and have been dipping into them with such success that most of them believed that, indeed, the feeding was fathomless. This current coronavirus has driven us straight to the rock-hard bottom: South Africa has literally ran out of money and had to, cap in hand, go to the IMF for salvation.

And still, the elite’s minds are resolute, their skills unmatched, their intentions clear: it is still their time to feast. 

At the same time, the people of South Africa are past the point of hopelessness and, increasingly, homefulness. Millions are hungry, and angry, and alone. Communities have been shattered. Once again, anger at our neighbours is the salve.

In a more caring society, this would have been the moment when all, young and old, mighty and weak, rich and poor, get together in a social compact that would pull us through the calamity. Many did get together – where the government failed, hundreds of Community Action Networks (CANs) stepped in heroically, providing the essential help and services that, in a “normal” country, would have been a duty of the democratically elected government.

Alas.

Instead of a social compact, the South African government chose social engineering that would have put some of the former Eastern European leaders to shame.

Result: an array of industries destroyed; under-recovery of tax revenue running to tens of billions of rand; a shot of amphetamine into the veins of criminal networks; the potential criminalisation of tens of millions of people.

And, in this blindingly incompetent environment, we have learnt that well-connected ANC cadres, the government and their assorted friends have managed to further enrich themselves by cashing in on the pain and suffering of the people.

If you are a doctor, or nurse, you are slam-bang in the face of Covid-19 exposure. You risk your own life, and that of your family, by getting out of bed every day and working to save lives. Maybe you get your salary for that. Maybe you get to use personal protective equipment (PPE) too, maybe you’ll have to wrap yourself in a rubbish bag and reuse the masks you discarded days ago.

And there are those who bank on this misery, and the Covid-19 class of millionaires whose wealth redistribution takes place behind the shiny windows of luxury car dealerships.

The Eastern Cape health system was the first to collapse, but it won’t be the last. While the people of Nelson Mandela Bay are running out of water, the province has quickly and efficiently procured such crucial items as government car signage (R18-million) and online learning systems (R538-million). Let us repeat: an area that houses millions is running out of water in the middle of the greatest health crisis in recent history, and the government’s response is as good as praying for rain.

As we peel back the onion layers of corruption, we discover so much more: KZN PPE corruption, Gauteng PPE corruption, Free State PPE corruption… Notice the trend? Tenders inflated, friends awarded even as they have no discernible expertise or experience. All of it while South Africa is gasping for air. Many will die in dilapidated hospitals because the “cadres” took the money for themselves. Millions more will go hungry.

The shock doctrine is in full effect – hyper-charged cronyism loves a crisis, and this one comes with no precedent.

So, let’s hope they enjoy their single malts and nightclubs, their mask-free funerals and social events. The elite are immune to everything, including shame, and this editorial is certainly wasted on them.

Soon, though, they’ll be forced to enjoy their wealth in a society where millions of children are malnourished and civil society had to go to court to force the Department of Basic Education to feed them. They’ll be amassing their car collections while youth unemployment is near-universal. They will be rich and literally everyone around them will be poor.

How long do they think that can last? Do they believe that this can be sustained forever?

They have used and abused the ANC’s name and its deep bond with most impoverished and needy South Africans for the longest time, and now cadres even ignore their own Integrity Commission imploring them to slow down on the thieving.

But nothing’s forever, not even their diamonds.

Soon enough, the people of South Africa will find the words to articulate what is unfolding around them. And they will describe these indiscretions accurately, and call them a crime against South African humanity. DM

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