Day 117 – Really?

In a country where everything – everything – gets touched by the thieving hands of Government corruption, it’s good to know that someone is finally standing up and fighting corruption. That someone is… [checks notes] er… [checks notes again] er… apparently, it’s… The Government.

This image, appended to the bottom of this tweet:

Government remains committed to building an ethical State in which there is no place for corruption, patronage, rent-seeking and plundering of public money. Report any suspected corrupt activities. #AntiCorruption #FightingCorruption Read more: gov.za/anticorruption

reminded me of [an analogy I decided not to use*] or the Pope encouraging people to come forward and root out Catholicism.

It’s literally everywhere (corruption, not Catholicism) (although…) from the President’s office down.

 

They say a fish rots from the head, but there’s smelly sludge all over the gills, fins and tail in this case. (Can you tell that I never did more than basic fish biology during my studies?)

R4.8 million for someone to go door to door and tell people about Covid-19 – R2640 per person. A cool ten and a half grand if there’s a family of four at home when you call.

There’s R29.7 million “missing” in KZN.

The R500 billion coronavirus fund was obviously just too good an opportunity to miss:

So:

And I should probably just not mention the Eastern Cape Scooter Fiasco*.

These examples were not hard to find, at all. And one could argue that at least someone is documenting, recording and reporting them. But mostly, nothing ever happens about these cases, and even on the odd occasion when it does, the perpetrators are re-employed by their equally corrupt colleagues (and/or political party) soon afterwards anyway.

So where is the punishment?

So what is the point?

But then for the government – arguably the most guilty entity for both the enabling of and looting of public money – to tell us that “Fighting corruption is everyone’s business”?

I’ve honestly never heard such utterly hypocritical bullshit.

 

 

* 100 words in was just too soon to invoke Godwin’s Law. 
** I actually saw The Eastern Cape Scooter Fiasco on the Friday at Reading in 2007. Great drummer. Energetic performance. 

Day 36 – Helpful advice for governments

Long one. It’s been a while. Hope you think it’s worth it.

Our actions and decisions are built on our learned experiences. As adults, we know not to touch the hot kettle because we once did that as a small child, and it hurt. Likewise, the exact same reason that we touched the hot kettle as a small child was because we hadn’t done it before, and so we didn’t know that it hurt.

Everything we do is based on what we know. Usually this is subconscious: I don’t even have to think about not touching the hot kettle any more. Even when it’s extending ourselves to new things which we’ve never done before, our prior knowledge stands us in good stead – we extrapolate our experiences to predict how this new action will progress and we react to that progression in the best way that we can – again, basing our decisions upon what we have done before and how that turned out.

When we haven’t had the experience in question, we look for someone who has. These are our experts. We take what they have learned from the experience and we use it to assist us in making correct and sensible decisions.

OK. Enough of the prologue.

Sadly, the fact is that we – and our experts – have very little experience with this novel coronavirus. With that lack of experience comes a lack of information. With that lack of information comes a lack of knowledge. And with that lack of experience, information and knowledge, we suddenly find that the rug of our ability to make informed decisions has been pulled from beneath us.

We’re very much flying blind.

The experts don’t often find themselves in this situation, because they are, by definition, experts. They know a bit about coronaviruses, but this isn’t behaving exactly the same as other coronaviruses. They know something about pandemics, but the last proper global pandemic was 100 years ago, when things really were very different. And they know quite a bit about sociology, but what they know is that very few societies behave exactly the same way.

What has become abundantly clear is that different countries (and, to a lesser extent, even different individuals within those different countries) are attempting to deal with this problem in numerous different ways. Yes, this is because every country is different, but it’s also because the experts advising those countries don’t have the experience to advise those countries in any one specific way. This unprecedented pandemic has the experts scrambling to give us their best guesses as to the best methods to deal with the situation.

The most sensible experts are the ones who are willing to admit that they don’t know. Sadly, that doesn’t mean that they are off the hook.

Our governments are made up of human beings like you or I. When they require advice on a subject, in order to make an informed, educated decision, they turn to their experts. But in this case, as we’ve mentioned, the experts don’t actually know what to do for the best (or at least they might, but they don’t know it yet).

And so the experts have to try their best to advise the politicians. And the politicians have to make decisions based on that expert advice. When politicians make decisions based on advice, that advice usually comes from people who have experience in economics or geology or whatever. And maybe not everyone agrees with that advice, but it does at least come from prior knowledge (albeit tainted/enhanced by political beliefs).

Here, it’s not that the experts disagree: they just. don’t. know.
They can’t – they, like us, have never been through anything like this before.

It takes a lot to admit that you don’t know something. Especially with an entire country waiting to hear what you are about to advise them to do. And, as far as requiring the public to have confidence in the decisions that you are suggesting are made, it might not be a good idea.

But this insistence from our politicians and experts that their approach is the best way forward, when all around us, we are seeing and hearing of different methods which seem to be working better (or to be fair, worse) isn’t helpful.

Neither are the mixed messages we are getting from different government departments. The one telling us we must maintain social distancing versus the one trying to get our kids back to school next week. The one telling us that we should try to avoid going to the shops versus the one which refuses to allow contactless e-commerce. The expert advice (such that it is) might indeed support each of these departments and approaches, but joined-up government needs to decide on one, stick with it and tell us why. Clarity is hugely important if you want to get your message across and mixed messages don’t just count as zeroes, they are negative marks.

And that’s another important point. We’d likely trust our government more if we were party to the reasoning behind their decisions. Transparency is key. It’s something we’re not (if you’ll excuse the pun) seeing here.

So sure: tell us to exercise only between 6-9am, but tell us why as well. Tell us that we have to stay in our homes between 8pm and 5am, but give us the rationale for that decision. We might not agree with it (and we don’t have to), but at least we can (perhaps) see where you’re coming from.

The seemingly ridiculous rotisserie chicken ban is an excellent case in point.

Without any explanation for your decisions (something which really wouldn’t take a lot of extra work in the greater scheme of things), you create distrust, discomfort and fear in an already vulnerable population. Suspicion runs rife and rumours and supposition fill the space that you’ve left vacant. Some people will oppose whatever you have said out of sheer bloody-mindedness, some will just overlook it out of apathy. Either way, it’s a huge own goal.

The thing is that it really wouldn’t take much for our leaders to do this (unless they really are out there just doing these things for the fun of it, of course). It’s clear that the population need to be spoon-fed as far as the lockdown goes: there’s far too much of the South African mentality that the rules only apply to other people, and not to me.

I guess that Cyril won’t read this. I feel that even if Nkosazana did read it, she’d probably ignore it. I pray that if Stella reads it, she does so at home. And Ebrahim definitely won’t read it, because it’s far too modern and new-fangled.

But if anyone “important” is listening, please understand that I don’t envy your situation. I’m sure that none of us would want to have to walk the balance beam that you find yourself on right now. All I’m saying is that perhaps a little more clarity and transparency might help if you want people to stop rocking the bar and trying to knock you off.

Sensible advice

Never – NEVER – believe anything any politician or government official says.

They all make promises they can’t keep, paid for with money they don’t have. It’s the same the world over.

And we end up sitting with no electricity for 7½ hours a day, despite what they assured us just 3 months ago.

They are taking the piss

With the (government regulated) fuel price reaching a new record level today, that same government (the one that also imposed a 1% increase in VAT, a 7% increase in the Fuel Levy and a 18.4% increase in the Road Accident Fund Levy just a couple of months ago) tweeted this:

Sure, it might look like they are trying to help us cut our petrol use, but it does seem a bit like the school bully giving you a plaster for your bleeding knee when he was the one who tripped you up in the playground.

They’re taking the piss, right?

I mean, check that incredible starter:

Make Fewer Trips

Wow… Revolutionary.
Thanks, Einstein.

A better way of saving South Africans money on petrol would surely be to revisit all those recent tax increases or tackle corruption and run the economy a bit better so that the currency wasn’t always struggling against the USD oil price benchmark.

But given that neither of those things is ever going to happen, I guess that I’ll just have to “accelerate smoothly” and “close my windows”.

FFS.

Caring Government

There’s been a groundswell of movements of late that suggest that those in charge of our nations – whichever nations they may be in this global society – don’t care about the common man (or woman) (or gender-fluid individual) on the street. They may be right, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about how things weren’t always this way. There is evidence that, less than 40 years ago, the UK government still cared for its subjects.

If the United Kingdom is stuck by a natural disaster, devastating pandemic, bioterrorist attack or other catastrophe… Pre-Emergency Services have been set up to supply citizens with “essential survival items” including ping pong balls, rubber bands, furniture polish, drinks coasters and crocheted toilet-roll covers that looked like Georgian ladies.

All the important bases covered, I’m sure you will agree. And as the Minister for Internal Affairs assured us:

Should an unexpected catastrophe occur, such as the one which may or may not take place later this year on October 14th, we guarantee that working families and those most in need, such as table tennis players, will be the first to receive the emergency supplies listed in this leaflet.

Indeed, the selfless Prime Minister even offered to forgo his own rubber band and drinks coaster rations saying:

“The knowledge that the people of the United Kingdom are safe is all the comfort I need and I will gladly make do with less vital resources”

These “less vital resources” were later revealed to be water purification tablets, dried food goods and medical supplies.

Fortunately for all concerned, the events of October 14th failed to materialise, and there was no need for the Pre-Emergency Services’ supplies to be handed out.

But one does have to wonder if the UK (or any other) Government of today would be as understanding and generous when considering the needs of its people.

This history, of course, courtesy of Scarfolk.