News and analysis of a world in peril
 
So, "we're all in this together" ... are we? - who benefits from lockdown
Government response has been to prop up the private sector and put the country deeper into debt that will ultimately land on the poor, once again.
... writes Tred Magill Wednesday, February 5, 2020

For the lady next door, who still has occasional emergency work as a dental assistant, cigarettes are absolutely essential. So too is her gin and tonic ... and the occasional glass of white wine.

Yet, she cannot put a few bottles into her trolley, as she browses the aisles of 'essential' items - tinned food, fresh meat, bread, batteries, pots and pans, toasters, sweets and chocolates, doughnuts ... Really? doughnuts are more essential than a bottle of red to have with dinner?

Clearly, there is something else going on here.

Perhaps it is the government's distrust of the poorer classes to observe social-distancing and avoid spreading the dreaded virus while intoxicated ... even if they could; because pissed or not, they have nowhere else to go. And as for the middle and upper-classes; they'll just get pissed with the family and stumble off to bed - no harm done!

Yes, the government is so concerned about our consumption of alcohol that the regulations prohibit us even from transporting it; so it's not even an option to carry it in your boot, to give to a friend in need, when you meet at the supermarket ... and they've called in the army to make sure of it; although I've not seen any military in any of the middle and upper class suburbs!

And then there's this strange conundrum of Ramaphosa telling us that people will be allowed to buy cigarettes when we move to Level 4, but then Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, heading up the National Command Council, decides 'no' ... for what possible reason?

When asked, Dlamini-Zuma cited the effects of tobacco on human lungs (yes, we know that), and added that "the way tobacco is shared does not allow for social distancing," and encourages the spread of the virus. "When people zol, they put saliva on the paper, and then they share that zol." So? Who doesn't know that, or is incapable of adjusting their smoking habit accordingly? So, the thousands of people who want to enjoy a cigarette are deprived, by a woman who has a personal preference she would like to force on everyone else; not that I'm a smoker, by the way.

But hang on, remember those photographs of the lady with that self-confessed illicit cigarette smuggler Adriano Mazzotti, who two years ago, was alleged to be funding her bid for the presidency? Perhaps the lady is returning a favour ... and no surprise then that the EFF, who also received donations from Mazzotti, (also a close friend of Julius Malema, who received a 'loan'), has supported the ban.

So, not only has the government imposed this impractical lockdown, they now also want to prescribe what we really need ... and infringe on our individual freedoms. The 'people shall govern' indeed! ... by looting the bottle stores, Duh! And for the middle (and upper classes who don't have enough stashed away), this only stimulates the 'black-market', forcing them to pay much more; while distressing the legitimate liquor and tobacco industries, not to mention robbing SARS of desperately needed taxes.

And why are the hardware stores closed, when I can get most of the hardware I need at Checkers? And why is it I can get camping equipment at a Checkers Hypermarket, but not at Makro or Game. Is it enforcement or compliance that is mere lip-service?

Nevertheless, the government's definition of 'essential' is a god-send to certain sectors (Spar, Checkers, Pick 'n Pay, Makro, Game, Clicks, Dis-Chem), who are not only allowed to trade, but whose competition has been closed-down and who are doing a roaring trade amidst fears of shortages. And not to let any profiteering opportunity go to waste, no surprise that Spar, Makro and Pick 'n Pay have been accused of hiking prices on essentials such as hand sanitisers, masks and toilet paper.

Dis-Chem too, have been found to have hiked the price of face-masks from R43 to R156. And while CEO Ivan Saltzman (who took home R12.8 million last year ) wants to duck paying rent on Dis-Chem stores , a reliable source informs me he is demanding full rental from tenants of the properties he owns. And while businesses might have some weight to 'negotiate' with retail landlords, residential landlords are still in business; or is it the case that people don't have to pay rent, while they can't go to work? Not bloody likely!

And while employees are locked-down, businesses are looking at the 'bottom-line; and paying people (many of whom are working from home), loans funded by the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Even though they've worked all month from home, they get a loan, not a salary ... so it has to be paid back! So, what happens when they get retrenched a few months after the pandemic and need to claim UIF ... sorry, the bank's empty! Or, in some cases, workers can give up their leave, even though they are confined to their homes and can't go on holiday. Either way, the government has cushioned the blow to the private sector and the workers lose, once again. Hey, it's 1st May - Happy Workers Day!

The government is desperately hoping the private sector will retain as many workers as possible because there's nothing left in the public sector. Those in government have either plundered the State, or turned a blind-eye to their cronies who did the plundering.

So, amidst all the drama of the pandemic, we've forgotten about Zuma's trial, state capture and the approximately R1Trillion that went missing. Gee, wouldn't that be helpful right now? And while all this is going on, the Land Bank defaults again , SAA faces its final demise and ANC cadres are found diverting food parcels for themselves, friends and family.

The first thing Ramaphosa does when he addresses us is to commend us for our resolute co-operation ... and how we have 'opened our hearts to each other'. What planet is he on?

Grocery and liquor stores are being looted at an unprecedented rate , trucks are being ambushed on the roads, 17 000 people have been arrested for breaking lockdown regulations, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is investigating three deaths, allegedly at the hands of police, Collins Khosa from Alexandra is dead, allegedly beaten to death by law enforcement officials and Georgette Gagnon, director of field operations and technical cooperation for the UN Human Rights Office, has described the government response to the virus as "highly militarised", resulting in a "toxic lockdown culture" ... illustrating just how precious our Bill of Rights really is.

"Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response. So is making it difficult or dangerous for a woman to get to hospital to give birth. In some cases, people are dying because of the inappropriate application of measures that have been supposedly put in place to save them," she said.

Ramaphosa's Covid relief and stimulus package

Then he goes on to announce a R500bn Covid relief and stimulus package ,

Apart from R50bn in real (cash) assistance in the form of grants, R20bn for municipalities to fund emergency water supply to assist sanitation, public transport, and provide food and shelter for the homeless and 250 000 food parcels ... the rest goes to support the private sector (about R270bn, mostly debt which has to be paid back with interest, thus enriching the banks) and R100bn to 'protect and create jobs' (no details provided). Looking at that, I'd say this 'relief' serves more to support the private sector and place the State deeper in debt, a burden ultimately borne by the tax-payer.

'Transforming the economy'

"Our country and the world we live in will never be the same", he continues ominously.

"We are resolved not merely to return our economy to where it was before the corona-virus, but to forge a new economy in a new global reality"... ??? "Our economic strategy going forward will require a new social compact (I think he means 'contract') among all role players – business, labour, community and government – to restructure the economy and achieve inclusive growth." What's he talking about? .... expropriation of land without compensation? Privatising our pension funds?

"Building on the cooperation that is being forged among all social partners during this crisis, we will accelerate the structural reforms required to reduce the cost of doing business, to promote localisation and industrialisation, to overhaul state owned enterprises and to strengthen the informal sector."

"We will forge a compact for radical economic transformation that ensures that advances the economic position of women, youth and persons with disabilities, and that makes our cities, towns, villages and rural areas vibrant centres of economic activity. Our new economy must be founded on fairness, empowerment, justice and equality." Is Ramaphosa on drugs? The ANC has been talking about 'radical economic transformation' for the last 25 years ... and the economy has only imploded.

Response to the Covid relief and stimulus package

Writing for News24, Columnist, Pieter du Toit says: " Ramaphosa - after inheriting a weakened state, an inefficient bureaucracy and squandered cash reserves - started a slow recapturing and rescue process in February 2018. These efforts have been well-documented, as has the glacially slow pace of institutional and governance reform. Those efforts have been undermined by the continued resistance in party and state, and stymied by the weak economic position the country finds itself in. And it is in this context that the worst health crisis to hit this country has exploded into over the last eight weeks."

Also writing for News24, in response to the relief and stimulus package, Mpumelelo Mkhabela, says: "Ramaphosa’s financial package, mostly funded by debt (my emphasis), comes at a time when the reforms meant to rebuild responsible management haven’t been implemented." He goes on to warn:

"The twin tasks of mitigating a disaster that Covid-19 imposes on all of us while simultaneously fixing an old problem of this magnitude would require something of a miracle (my emphasis).

"Ramaphosa's R500 billion Covid-19 relief-stimulus package has no doubt whet the insatiable appetite of the corrupt (my emphasis) in the ANC. Ramaphosa has spoken tough against corruption ... his tough talk has limits in its believability. He should rather act tough. Doing so would mean dismantling what the corrupt in the ANC have turned into the SOP. Evidence abounds of ANC community leaders hoarding or diverting Covid-19 relief resources to their comrades and families.

"Ramaphosa’s posture has the benefit of giving a semblance of trust in the state ... but it is not sufficient to build trust. He works with many people who were themselves responsible for hollowing out State capacity."

Now that, sounds more like it .... - (193)

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Life under lockdown

- examining the absurdities of
   a government response

A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth. The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water. Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches, and thoughts. And the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are - Swami Sivananda (6)
© Tred Magill Projects