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Mr President, your Covid strategy is not working

Forget the notion of riding out the storm – we need to navigate the waves and phases because this virus could be with us for another 24 months.
The gist of the author’s argument is that we cannot simply put parts of the economy on hold and hope they will bounce back when things improve. Image: Cooper Neill, Bloomberg

I have stated in previous columns that the pandemic is not the cause of our economic woes – South Africa was already in a recession before the outbreak. However, the shutdown of an economy that was underperforming and crippled by structural problems is a disaster with huge economic costs.

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What is urgently needed – yet is missing – is a conversation on economic recovery that moves beyond returning to the way things were before the pandemic.

The simple truth is that the government does not have clue how to do this.

South Africa is facing a catastrophic outcome: apart from the many people losing their lives, people are losing their livelihoods and facing poverty. Business is losing income across sectors, as many are unable to sustain themselves unless they downsize. Many will close their doors for good.

As important and necessary as the preventative measures against the spread of the pandemic are, the financial impact of the coronavirus has already caused long-lasting effects. It is almost certain that for South Africa, 2021 will be a year of recession.

The continuation of lockdown restrictions and delays on the vaccine front thwart any chance of economic recovery this year, adding misery to an already dire situation with catastrophic outcomes.

This is worsening the situation for three reasons:

First, an economy that is shackled by restrictions does not produce income because it locks people out of economic activity, forces business to reconfigure their operations such as reducing working hours, and constrains consumer spending.

Second, South Africa’s ability to rebuild its economy will be directly related to how well it has approached, coped with and tackled the pandemic. While the initial response was mostly positive in how the government acted fast to curb the spread, its subsequent actions have been far less successful.

For example, the failure on contact tracing and procuring rapid testing kits.

These two measures may have been effective in containing the spread of the virus without the imposition of another lockdown.

Furthermore, the debacle around the oversight and lack of preparedness to secure vaccines and the non-payment points to a government that has no clear plan. For a country that was among those that had clinical vaccine trials for several companies, the mess regarding the management of a Covid-19 vaccine means the government has failed in its responsibility to the citizenry – especially its duty to provide healthcare services to people.

Alarmingly, neither President Cyril Ramaphosa nor health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize have come out to inform the nation about what really happened, why the government had to ask the Solidarity Fund for help and how such an oversight in not securing the vaccine (via a down payment) could happen … an indication of leadership failure and government disfunction.

Third, in mimicking approaches taken by advanced economies, the Ramaphosa administration appears to assume that a lockdown will work; in so doing the government has not developed its own test and tracing strategy.

For example, what stops the government from employing community workers to implement tests, trace, isolate and quarantine and simultaneously educate the public about the virus and safety? Nothing but the lack of its own strategy.

What government’s approach has revealed is that South Africa does not have policies and strategies to contain the virus.

The economic outlook for 2021 will be even gloomier if characterised by stop-and-go intervals due to lockdowns.

Moreover, if the government cannot afford the vaccine for a fraction of the population, how will it ensure universal vaccination for all? What happened to the R500 billion economic and health package – how was it spent, and why was a portion of it not set aside for the future vaccine since the beginning of related trials?

These are some of the questions we the public must persistently ask and seek accountability for.

So what can be done?

As a start, any government action and policy to tackle the crisis ought to do the following:

(i) Maintain the economy’s productive capacity since it will be important in the times of recovery; lockdowns impact people’s capacity to generate income hard and hurts productivity.

(ii) Give liquidity to business with certain stipulations (such as preserving jobs and/or creating jobs when recovery occurs) – this can be in a form of credit or grants.

(iii) Have clear sector-by-sector policies in a way that prevents the financial impact and recession from becoming a depression.

Responsible government

We must remember that the loss of income incurred by the private sector is hurtful to the country’s economic wellbeing because it means lost jobs, and the inability of families and companies alike to service their debts and keep afloat.

However, these suggestions would be futile if the government cannot fix its balance sheets by tackling its deepening debt.

What the pandemic has made visible is that until a cure is found, there will be waves and phases of the coronavirus as it adapts and mutates. The notion of riding out the storm will not work.

By all indications the virus will be our reality for the next 24 months or more. Unfortunately, these actions will happen because we have a ruling party that is obsessed with ideology; an incompetent government that is engaged in destroying the economy and has not taken the responsibility to protect us seriously.

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Far more dangerous and destructive than the virus is our corrupt and 5 star incompetent ANC government.

No mention of WMC from the EFF?

I’m surprised!

If this Government can loot State coffers and the Elite corrupt officials and comrades live in the lap of luxury at the expense of the people (dare i say the tax payer) then this entire vaccine procurement process is another “piggy bank” that they will tear into and ravage so that nothing remains..

Not even a drop!

Which is why they want a monopoly on distribution of the vaccine.

Correct. In line with their racists views the EFF should be telling their supporters to reject any vaccine developed in a Western / White country and wait for one to be developed in Africa. Surely these hypocrites won’t go ‘White’ with the vaccine but then again when Malema recently needed legal assistance he used a White lawyer i.e. Black lawyers were deemed not-good-enough for him.

Great article Mamokgethi. Really I
Mean this – no sarcasm at all. I do hope you read my comment and know this. I loved how practical you were and straight to the point. You avoided that divisive identity politics and refused to be a moth piece for our socialist government. You spoke for the working class, of which I am apart of and for this I say thank you. This article could be the best piece of thought I have read on MW. Keep up the good work.

100% agreed – this should be mandatory reading (multiple times) for the members of the NCCC and the whole NEC. Where is your exit strategy Mr President!?

Agreed, Romulus, BUT can they read- and this is not nasty sarcasm at play but a reasonable assumption when one looks at where they have taken the state of this country!!! I watch these “esteemed” Members interviews and cringe with embarrassment for this country!

Spot on. The incompetence and carelessness is breathtaking.

Once again it just proves how bad the collective model is for arriving at decisions. You would think by now that government would be asking itself how it’s possible for it to screw everything up, but no. Zero introspection.

As for the vaccine, why aren’t we making it here in South Africa under licence instead of trying to buy doses from others. Put up our own factories?

I suppose that would take both creativity and work, two foreign concepts all round.

Factories are not allowed to exist under Chinese controlled loan agreements to the ANC.

Agree. We were dictated the hardest level lockdown at the wrong time and now, judging by the infections and deaths, this amended level 3 lockdown is still not working.

Those from the townships, like Soweto, will tell you that there has not been any compliance, and the taxi ranks and full taxis are the main problem.

Therefore amending level 3 a disallowing liquor off-site sales won’t change anything.

The ANC and its corrupt command council have failed spectacularly.

The stats bear that out, even though they are under reporting Covid-19 deaths massively.

@african Pagmatist.

I beg to differ on your 1 point “disallowing liquor off-site sales won’t change anything.”

It has. Bara hospital had no trauma casualties on NY day. This tells us a lot about our binge drinking lifestyle.

You clearly have no idea how the scientific method works. If you have more than one variable you cannot draw a conclusion as to the correlation between the outcome of an experiment and the effect of the variables. Here you have a number: 1) joblessness due to the NCCC’s reckless destruction of jobs, 2) the curfew, 3) fewer cars on the road, 4) fewer gatherings of people where fights may break out unrelated to alcohol, 5) unavailability of alcohol. Of the latter you cannot even be sure, as alcohol is freely available on the black market. The inept NCCC is killing a fly with a sledgehammer and the poor will pay for this with their lives. Hunger, malnutrion, other diseases now untreated, the callousness towards the vulnerable is heartbreaking and ongoing.

Is that due to alcohol sales from off-licence premises Monday to Thursday or sales as and when you want including illegal shebeens etc.

I suggest that the curfew is the greater influencer!

@Muks: The prohibition of alcohol sales has blow all to do with the pandemic. If this regulation had been put in place two years ago it would have had the same result in trauma counts. Same as if all motor vehicles had been placed in lockdown, their would have been zero road deaths with or without the pandemic. The hospitals are still under-equipped and under-staffed due to government failure to do what was supposed to be done during the2019 lockdowns. Total failure there, but let’s punish those who enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their meal.

What percentage of the drinking population actually spend regular stints in trauma? Let’s be generous and say 1%. The rest of the 99% now have to be burdened with having this pleasure (or vice as you presumably would call it) totally cut out because of the idiot binge drinkers? Idiot binge drinkers will be with us forever. Deal with that using another strategy – don’t conflate it with disaster management. The idiots justified the cigarette sale ban in the same way – total irrationally. Your response to Africa Pragmatist is therefore invalid.

Not ”our binge drinking” simply the majority which is politically insensitive to say. and they have got booze on tap

I would think Bara hospital was empty because it was avoided not because there was no trauma. Imagine on your way you go through a roadblock with and alcohol related injury, you will have some serious explaining to do. Does anyone know if the hospital has still remained clear of trauma cases?

Most companies will vaccinate their staff at their own cost , just let business buy their own vaccines and we can get on with it , problem here is someone wants a cut !!!

You said it. So true.

The very first UK official advisory stated that the virus cannot be stopped and must be allowed to run its course. Herd immunity is the only way to bring an end to it. Just protect the vulnerable and otherwise do nothing. Vaccines will not bring immunity, only infection and recovery can do that. The manufacturers have said so. The politicians and the media continue with this lie because they have a golden thread running through them paid from the public purse. We all contribute to the perpetuation of endless lies through the public purse.
There is no vaccine that will give immunity full stop.
The majority have had no symptoms and have developed their resistance.
The testing does not look for this resistance but picks up fragments of any virus. If you are already resistant the test comes out positive and you are rgarded as a super spreader. Absolute insanity, yes, correct.

The virus and its mutations will be here forever. Forget the virus and forget saving everybody. Deaths due to covid are not so different to normal death rates for the past few years. Sadly, in typical South African fashion the system can’t cope with a normal load and can only function at 50%, We should be building crematoriums, not closing businesses permanently.This corrupt and useless regime has a lot to answer for

…..catastrophe if this virus mutate further and start infecting animals???

SA will explode when money for sassa and uif benefits run dry. By strangling the economy this is a real possibility because government is a business aswel and the same economic principles apply. It’s time opposition political parties starts shouting this from the rooftops. Furthermore, it is time to start planning for the people who survives this pandemic. If our economy is in ruines, more people will die in protests, malnutrition, enough/good hospitals etc than of c19. Government has to overcome one very big hurdle – it will have to trust and work with business. I can’t see this happening with uneconomicly friendly BBBEE in our midst aswel as our country’s enormous corruption challenges and cader deployment. Something will gave to give in the near future. 2021 have the possibility to be 2020’s big brother.

Thank you for a really great article, straight to the point and pulling no punches. More power to your pen.

You will certainly have ruffled feathers. I look forward to much more of the same.

The sound advice and the proper solutions are in conflict with the Freedom Charter and the ANC manifesto. A weaver bird builds a well-constructed and intricate nest, while a crow builds a basic nest. With the ANC, we expect a crow to build a nest like a weaver. This is an error in our expectation, not an error in their method.

We chose the wrong government for the wrong reasons, that is why the results are wrong.

Love your comparison! You nail it.

Sensei, you do a disservice to crows.

Squirrel and company will go blathering along regardless of any reason.

Congratulations Mamokgethi, this is an excellent article. I would have added just one thing. That is, that the virus is going to be with us probably for ever. It will become the new “flu virus”, since influenza numbers are down bout 97%, worldwide.

I also fully concur with your Economic insight.

Every person in the country should be on vitamin D3 and Zinc for a start. I do believe next year when the virus is still around governments and people will be more pragmatic. We are still save everyone at all cost mode. Never in the history of the world has so much money been spent on saving so few people.

Good statement until that person that is saved is you or your family

I live in a rural area. Every time I go out and meet someone I hear people say “Have you heard so n so died, he fell ill for two days and died”. This is just my area imagine South Africa. How come we have 33k deaths?

kingmdu you are very right but not only in the rural area. i have heard of cases where the person gets Covid which closes the chest and dies so on the death certificate it states pneumonia or the heart fails and it is a heart attack yet if the person didn’t have Covid they would most likely still be alive.

I suspect more than 100 000 people have of Covid.

You are now arguing like a rational, intelligent and educated person who can connect the dots. However, the ANC doesn’t work like that. All they care about is the fact that they are in power now (and no longer in jail)
and they live the good life. The bigger picture is irrelevant to them.

The sad truth is that govt either doesn’t care or doesn’t have a clue. Lack of leadership at all levels.

So unless we as citizens take control of our own lives, our own destinies & starve this regime of oxygen.

They don’t want us working in formal jobs, paying PAYE. So quit, start side hustle. Stop paying taxes. Stop paying rates & taxes. Buy local – really local. Go cash.

2020 was literally my best year – thanks in great part to Cyril & his team of incompetents. It broke the chains.

There are only 2 words to describe our government
INCOMPETENT and CORRUPT

Great, great article. If lockdown does not work in the 1st world how can it work here?
This is all about the balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods. How can one expect a bunch of communist/socialists to grasp this concept?

1. “What is urgently needed – yet is missing – is a conversation on economic recovery that moves beyond returning to the way things were before the pandemic.”

But they have been taking to NADLAC and other business bodies. These meetings was well published. As a jurno you should know better.

2. “For example, what stops the government from employing community workers to implement tests, trace, isolate and quarantine and simultaneously educate the public about the virus and safety?”
During level 5 ; there was community workers doing their rounds on townships doing what you suggested. Then it stopped.

What is letting us down is implementation of policies. We have lost our pride as a nation; and become self serving.

I wonder who you are referring to as “we”. The government and the politicians became self serving.

NEDLAC is a talk shop between big business and big unions. BOTH of which are shrinking and losing members, so hardly a great success story there. Most businesses are unrepresented at NEDLAC so it is irrelevant.

As the author points out, SA was in a recession before COVID. I think Minister Patel and the rest of the economic cluster (f) must come and explain to us why the both the economy and employment have been shrinking for many years.

LMAO
Not a single one of his “strategies” except for racist suppression and looting is working !!!

Mamokgethi Molopyane hits the truth hard! A person with wisdom.

Would nominate her for President.

“The simple truth is that the government does not have clue how to do this.” And yet they still hold on to power – until the voters mature intellectually. So don’t hold your breath. Refer Zimbabwe etc North of us.

I’m afraid you are confusing yourself in your argument of what the government should do because by your own admission, “they have no clue”.

“What happened to the R500 billion economic and health package ..?” What happened to the Guptas? What happened to prosecuting Zuma? Sigh … it was stolen, as is everything that is not bolted to the ground in SA.

We have millions of badly educated citizens, politically immature and easily manipulated. Any changes are going to take decades.

We have all done things wrong. Don’t get speeding fines or murder or rape etc just steal from the poor sell them food at excessive prices or skim off profits those are legal under the ANC.

in Zimabawe in the early 1980’s I paid Z$10 to go to the front of a que.

“What is urgently needed – yet is missing – is a conversation on economic recovery”

But the BOZO’s are not listening.

Look at Ebrahim Patel – this must be the most useless minister to take on the job as Trade minister. He wanted lockdown at your jockey level.

Tito has his hands time. He should worry about playing on Twitter. He also doesnt have the skills in the treasury.

THe president cannot decipher between right and wrong. Neither can he put on a mask properly on his own.

These individuals do not want to listen but rather follow communist policies.
The country just does not have the skills to boost economic growth.

^ Tito has his hands time …. damn autocorrrect 🙂

one more time … Tito has his hands tide!

tied

Tied !!!!

President Ramaphosa’s speach was excellent last night.
Actually better than Mr. Johnson from the UK.

Mr. President your decisions make a lot of common sense, but I sense that some of our fellow countrymen want lock down level 5 and not the current level 3.

What of any value was said?

Sorry mate, you should have watched the speech.

It was the manner in which he presented it.
Good leadership in a country abundant with negative people.

The decisions made, make sense.
He has to keep the economy at full steam and enforce rules that work best.

You can also not just jump and purchase millions of possibly ineffective vaccines. You have to analyze its results and negotiate the best price by leveraging the AU numbers.

Excellent and very honest article with meaningful suggestions.

How do you buy vaccines or anything else when you are stone broke. I think it was Ms Thatcher who said the problem with Socialism is that you run out of others peoples money. Just wait until the ANC says sorry no more money for grants!

How does that song go? ’cause we’ve got ideology, great ideology!
There’s an appropriate proverb too: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”
It’s about time we got real.

He should deport all the superspreaders from europe,UK and USA
They the ones believing its a hoax.

Is it possible that the GUPTAS could be the supplier of the vaccine,as it comes from India?
If so,then the vaccine is most probably useless.

There is no strategy, everything is knee jerk reaction.

The difference between a plan and a strategy is that a strategy takes the plan all the way to implementation, monitoring and correcting mistakes on a continual basis, to reach the intended results.

Anybody can come up with a plan, but only those who take ownership of an issue can implement a strategy. Individuals in communalists organisations never take ownership of an issue, because, for them, the accountability lies with the collective. Collectivists have many plans but no strategy. They fall over their feet in the darkness of their dogma.

Sa need a ‘new’ government, but ..

And what is the winning strategy?

Lock down level 3 is about as good it can get in combating such a virus and still have an economy.

The biggest fault (imo) with all of this economic damage, lockdown nonsense and total over-reaction to this “pandemic” is that people somehow thing the Government is the solution to all problems.

Since when was the Government (ANC, or any other) the best solution? This is the main premise underlying many of our economic woes.

What blows my mind is that they have proven time and again that at the very least they’re extremely inefficient in spending money and allocating capital – and at the very worst, well Zuma/Gupta anyone?

We need to remove Government and let private citizens, business and capital find the solutions.

By all indications the virus will be our reality for the next 24 months or more. Unfortunately, these actions will happen because we have a ruling party that is obsessed with ideology; an incompetent government that is engaged in destroying the economy and has not taken the responsibility to protect us seriously.

Just hit copy-paste on this paragraph!

End of comments.

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