Day 438 – Nothing speech yields no results

With due respect to The 438 Game and that guy in Forries who called it.

Just over a week ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation regarding the Covid-19 situation here. I don’t need to go back over that speech because firstly, there wasn’t much to it, and secondly, I covered just how pathetic it was right here.

Suffice to say, the only two interventions he made in the face of a clearly incoming third wave of infections were to reduce the numbers permitted at gatherings to 250 outdoors and 100 indoors, and to extend the curfew by 1 hour: from midnight until 4am to 11pm until 4am. I commented at the time that these were unlikely to make any difference to the very worrying situation and were really just to make it look like the government were doing something. The gatherings numbers were still far too high to limit any potential spread and the extra hour would just hurt businesses that little bit more without making any difference to the number of infections.

And that’s if any of the regulations were being effectively observed, policed and enforced anyway. (They’re not.)

Unsurprisingly, the rate of new infections since the speech has increased across seven of the nine provinces. The only two outliers in this regard were the two smallest (by population) provinces: Northern Cape and Free State, which were – for the first time in their existences – both ahead of the curve for something. Sadly, it turned out to be the third wave.
The rest of the country, in which 95% of the population lives, showed dramatic increases across the board:

Not pretty, but not exactly much of a shock, either.

So, as before the speech (and as before the second wave), Ramaphosa has a decision to make: either a stricter lockdown or a more deadly third wave. I’ve said before that I won’t get into the argument of whether lockdowns are a good thing or not, and I’ve also said that I am very glad I’m not having to navigate a country through a pandemic.
But they’re getting paid the big bucks (and sharing the funds with their comrades) for this sort of thing, and they really should be doing much better.

Last week’s speech was never going to do anything but harm. And so it has proved.

Graphs from Sugan Naidoo

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Day 432 – It’s the weekend, baby!

Ah. Remember the halcyon days of the Gareth Cliff breakfast show? Before he went Sho’t Right on his odd political trip and 5fm was invaded by 12 year olds with the IQ of a stone? We all used to drag ourselves through the working week until Friday, and hearing that line, with the “…end” syllable extended before the explosive “baby!” meant that we could finally see the finishing line ahead of us at 5pm (or 12ish in Cape Town).

It’s all changed now, of course.

Well, that is, except for the weekend.

I gave President Ramaphosa a bit of a slagging yesterday, but what he lacks in his general political action, he clearly makes up for in his incredible negotiation skills. Because he’s taken a step that no other President on earth has taken: he’s negotiated with the actual virus – and he’s won some key concessions.

I know that this sounds a little far-fetched, but I was looking at a graph earlier today, and I can only conclude that the above scenario is exactly what has happened. God knows what he had to offer the virus in return, but it seems that Cyril has negotiated something of a cease fire for 2/7ths of the week. Namely the weekend (baby!).

Here’s the graph in question:

At first sight, things look good. Trend is upwards. Even if it is from a low base. Credit where it’s due.

But then, yes. One notes the chasms between the towers. Despite the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and heading rapidly for a third wave of Covid-19, we’re still taking the weekend off when it comes to vaccinating people.

Wut?

This would seem to be a very bad idea were it not for Cyril’s deal with Coronavirus, because clearly, the virus must also be taking the weekend off, or the data presented in this graph would indicate something close to criminal incompetence.

It’s not ideal that with this new arrangement, the virus will be around for almost 30% longer than necessary, but at least in that extra time it won’t be knocking anyone else off because come Saturday and Sunday, it’ll clearly be chilling round the braai and going to bed at 11pm, just like all the rest of us.

Seriously… could we not just fill in those gaps and get some healthcare workers to do some jabs over the weekend?

It’s quite an important thing.

Day 431 – Hard to disagree

I’m no fan of any political party here in SA. Maybe not even anywhere else either.
But I’m in SA and so I’m concentrating more on the political parties here. For those of you not in the know, here’s a quick run down of the top 6 parties here:

The ANC is broken, horribly corrupt and is failing the country.
The DA is full of itself, despite continually lurching from one PR disaster to another.
The EFF is loudmouthed, flipflopping populist extremism in a red boiler suit.
The IFP has no bearing on anything (and therefore no relevance) outside KwaZulu-Natal.
The FF+ is the diametric opposite of (and therefore ironically also exactly the same as) the EFF.
And the ACDP is basically full of Donald Trump wannabes without the orange tan and the dodgy wig.

It’s not a pretty line up.

But enough of the prologue. On with the story.

It’s become ever so trendy on social media lately to shoot down anything that the DA says. If you refer to my quick – yet surprisingly accurate – guide above, you’ll note that the DA is adept at shooting themselves in their collective feet, so fairly often, this criticism is tautologically warranted and deserved, but equally, quite a lot of the time, it’s just trolling by people trying to look cool.

But they do look ever so cool when they do it. I, for one, always admire their actions.

Last night, we had another address from the President regarding the current coronavirus situation. We’re well into the start of our third wave now, and our vaccination rollout is some way behind where we’d like it to (or where it should) be. Oh, and the Health Minister – ostensibly leading our fight against Covid – is embroiled in a corruption scandal:

To be fair, we don’t have anywhere to go to save ourselves from the third wave. We simply can’t afford another hard lockdown, and we’ve become blasé about precautions to protect each other from the virus, because there’s been no peak in the virus for a while, because there’s zero respect for those making the rules, because the rules are too lax, and because there’s zero enforcement.

But last night’s address was particularly pathetic: “Social events are driving Covid infections.” Well, sure they are – just like last time – but see above. And look again at the new restrictions you’ve put on them: 100 people indoors, 250 outdoors. Ridiculous numbers. That’s not going to help.

An extra hour added to the curfew.
Why? To look like you’re doing something? No. It looks like you’ve got no clue, no plan, no idea where to go, and you’re just chucking out some extra rule because you can. How will it make any difference? It won’t.

A reminder to wear masks in public (but see above).

Apparently, things are going well with the vaccination programme, but The West stole all the vaccines.

Oh, and on the Mkhize corruption allegations?

Nothing. Nada. Dololo. Zilch.

And so, when a DA MP tweeted this after the event:

And despite desperately wanting to be one of the cool cats, I find it very hard to disagree with what he says.

It’s not a great time to be in SA right now.

Day 426 – Vaccine links

South Africa’s rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine is well underway, or perhaps more accurately punctuated, it’s… well… underway.

It’s been fraught with problems from well before the outset, namely that we didn’t buy any vaccines, and then when the vaccines that we didn’t order didn’t arrive, we blamed “the West”. But several (or more) other places in Africa and our third world peers around the globe seem to be having very little issue with securing their vaccines, despite “the West”. And while I’m not denying that things could have been a bit more sharey, it’s really just a convenient scapegoat for their incompetence.

Two major issues with the trickleout are the lack of eligible people registering to get vaccinated, and the plethora of ineligible people who are getting vaccinated.

The first of these problems comes about because when you ask over-60s to register online, you overlook the fact that they don’t have access to devices and/or data (the Western Cape is making an effort to change this), and even if they do have those things to hand, they tend to be more technologically-challenged than many other age groups. So we’re looking at around 25% of the cohort who have signed up. That’s not enough. And that’s just signing up, not being invited to get the vaccine, and (also importantly) not necessarily being able to get to where they need to be to get the vaccination, even if they do get invited. That’s really not enough. Thankfully, there are stories of help being on hand, but they are few and far between (this is literally the only one I have heard of, so actually “there is story” would be more accurate).

Even then, we still don’t have enough vaccine to go around: either homegrown or from elsewhere.
And no-one is saying when either problem might be resolved.

So, the system isn’t working. And then to add insult to injury (and this being South Africa), there are those who aren’t following the rules, slipping in and getting their vaccinations early.

The man in charge of the government’s Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS), Dr Nicolas Crisp, sounds gatvol.
From having to spend time haggling with a Twitter user who was telling others how to use a link in a medical aid registration system to hack the EVDS and get in line for a vaccine if you’re younger than 60, to having to shut down the healthcare worker site because youngsters were using it to get access to vaccines, it has already been a rough week. And it’s only Tuesday.

I feel for him, but a more robust (some would call it “adequate”) system wouldn’t have had this sort of issue. Who could have foreseen South Africans bending the rules by… *gasp*… clicking a checkbox on a website?
There was a big fuss over “an influencer” jumping the queue a couple of weeks ago, ostensibly claiming that he was a healthcare worker (checkbox), when actually – as mentioned above – he doesn’t have a real job. But it continues, with a well-known local safari guide openly admitting to cheating the system to get his vaccination yesterday. And then sharing in his IG story that he had arranged to go back and get a second dose earlier than planned so that he can go on holiday to Iceland. And to be fair, a ‘togging trip to Reykjavík does seem like a genuine reason for someone to get the jab instead of it going to a vulnerable 90 year old just as the third wave hits SA. I mean, obviously.

But: balance. We need to note that he didn’t get the vaccine for him. He got it for his family and for his clients. Altruism on point. It’s surely just a slip of tongue then when he mentions that he wanted to get the J&J vaccine “because then I could only get one jab and I’m done: easier for travel”, because that wouldn’t affect his family and clients, would it? And this was all about them.

Yeah. I think he’s a bit of a wanker. But no matter how important he considers himself, he’s just another drop in the ocean when it comes to those manipulating the system. And those individuals are just a tiny part of the mess, but they are also symptomatic of yet another dysfunctional nightmare being served to us by our kleptocratic, incompetent government. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I can’t see myself being vaccinated (here in SA) before the end of this year.

And that means no holiday in Iceland for me this winter.

Day 406 – More SA politics fun

SA politics is rarely dull. Some people might say that this is a good thing, and represents a young, vibrant democracy, constantly evaluating and questioning itself. And yes, that would be a good thing, but it does seem to be mainly widespread corruption and intra-party mud slinging which is taking the centre stage, while actually serving the country (which really, really needs serving), falls by the wayside.

The most recent infighting is within the governing party, the ANC, who are happily fiddling while Rome has no decent housing, a disastrous education system, zero unemployment prospects, an upcoming third wave of Covid-19 (now closer than ever) and plenty of crumbling infrastructure.
Still, while we’re concentrating on their petty squabbles, we’re not talking about all that other stuff, are we?

And I don’t use the term “petty squabbles” lightly, because while the consequences of their collective actions might be very serious indeed, it’s hard not to crack a faint grin at their playground posturing.

The latest episode (coming a whole day after the previous episode) concerns ANC Secretary General Elias “Ace” Magashule. He’s likely bent as a 12 Rand note, having been charged with fraud, corruption and money-laundering. Taking decisive (cough) action, (some of) the rest of the ANC leadership gave him 30 days to step aside from his post for the duration of his trial. That 30 days has just expired and Ace is still there. And so the President suspended him.

And Ace then suspended the President. “Lol”.

Cyril is having none of it. And rightly so, it seems, because while Ace says that Cyril has no right to suspend him, Cyril does have (the majority of) the NEC on his side. Ace has… well… himself. And constitutionally (that’s the ANC Constitution, not the National one), he doesn’t even have himself, because he’s been suspended.
Ace has as much power to suspend the President as my beagle has.

Lots of enthusiasm, lots of noise, zero understanding of how the actual political system works.

Loves free treats.

And so the ANC fragmentation merry-go-round continues, with some heavyweights and branches coming out in support of Magashule, more of them defending Ramaphosa, and local political commentators wasting no time at all in invoking Godwin’s Law.

All of this chaos must be like manna from heaven for the opposition, right?

Well, sure, if they were able to utilise it to strengthen their position. Sadly (I say sadly because a decent, strong opposition is hugely important to any country, and not because of any personal political affiliation), they are so incompetent that they’re actually going down in the polls despite the complete and utter fuckshow happening up top.
And why? Because of crap leadership and… gosh… political infighting within the party.

It all comes down to the cult of personality over actual ability to do the job they are elected and mandated to do. In a recent small scale study, an orange TV host was elected President of a powerful North American country, despite having no demonstrable political ability at all. The world watched on.

It did not end well.

I’m not saying that we’re quite at that level of disaster yet, but until we get leaders who are more concerned with leading the country than their own parties and personal position and wealth, we’re going nowhere except backwards.

It’s very frustrating, hugely costly and thoroughly depressing.