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Time for answers

Government needs to spell out where it is in preparing to end the lockdown.
Mr President, we would like a dashboard of measurables showing how close we are to getting a handle on things. Image: GCIS

I will begin with my conclusion. There are no good options. Only bad ones, and the least bad will still cost lives, destroy businesses and take us years to recover from.

Once the Covid-19 crisis ends, South Africa will be much worse off than when it began, which was in the middle of a recession, on target to have a deficit of 6.8% for the 2021 financial year, and with an unemployment rate of 29.1%.

The national lockdown, which is meant to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus, has brought an already-stuttering economy to its knees, with the government now thinking that GDP will shrink 6.4% for the year. Business for SA says it could be worse, forecasting that GDP could collapse by up to 17% and see up to four million jobs lost.

Read: Covid-19: B4SA foresees up to 4 million job losses

Listen: GDP will see a double-digit decline in 2020 – B4SA

Already we have seen sizeable casualties with businesses like retail group Edcon and airline Comair going into business rescue. 

The worst is still coming

Although the lockdown has bought the state some time to prepare itself for the pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned on Tuesday that some tough days still lie ahead. “We’re informed that the worst is still coming,” he said. “We are going to get more people who are infected.”

So far, 8 232 people have been infected and 161 people have passed away in SA. Globally, the number of deaths stands at 265 000.

Read: SA reports 424 new Covid-19 infections, as cases top 8 200

These figures don’t tell the whole story. The number of Covid-19 related fatalities could end up being far higher because they were not recorded as such, or because people could not get proper treatment for an unrelated ailment. There is already some evidence of this, with the New York Times reporting that the number of deaths in some US states was up to six times higher between March 15 and May 2 compared with the same period last year.

Time to be specific 

SA is dealing with an existential crisis, but how long it will be in crisis mode depends on how well it implements its coronavirus risk-adjusted strategy. This basically comes down to how much risk can be tolerated against government’s ability to manage it.

The problem is that when it comes to communicating its risk-adjusted strategy, the government speaks in generalities and not the specifics. 

The state could, for instance, do better in defining the scale of the risk as an expression of where we are in tackling the outbreak.

For example, it could release the number of daily tests that are being carried out in specific provinces (Western Cape is already doing so), towns and neighbourhoods – not just the national numbers. It should also provide more information on the extent of its contact-tracing efforts, both at the local and national level.

What I would also like to see is a heat map showing specific hot spots.

This way people living in affected areas will know they have to take extra precautions.

How many beds?

On the government’s ability to manage the pandemic, I want to know what resources have been activated since the crisis began. How many hospital beds are now available? What is the total number of seriously ill people we are able to deal with? What areas are we falling short in?

I also want to know if the alert level will be the same across the country, or if some flexibility will be shown in allowing more economic activity in provinces, regions and towns that have demonstrated they can properly manage the crisis.

Basically, I want a dashboard of measurables showing more than the number of new cases, deaths and recoveries. I want something showing how close we are to getting a handle on things.

Read: Lockdown: Poking the bear?

Right now, we just have some vague deadline of maybe going into Level 3 in October. That’s not a good enough answer for people who are losing their jobs, running out of money and going hungry.

If people understand what it will take for the lockdown to end, they will continue to support it. But if they are kept in the dark, it will raise concerns on how long their goodwill will last.

The shifting goalpost of the lockdown has also not helped. When it first started, we were told it would be for three weeks, then it was extended to five. After that, we were told we still can’t leave our homes and that most of us can’t go back to work yet.

For the most part, South Africans have shown patience and resolve in dealing with the crisis. This was especially true of the thousands who stood in a four-kilometre queue waiting for food parcels near Pretoria last week.

The state must respect this kind of resoluteness on the part of the destitute by sharing how far we still have to go.

As I said before, there are no good options. Only bad ones, and the least bad of these will still cost lives, destroy businesses and take us years to recover from.

It’s clear that the country will be struggling for a while.

But providing clarity on what it will take to allow us to leave our homes will provide some certainty in a difficult time.



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One of the better articles on this site. Thought provoking about there only being bad options but very correct

The real thought provoker is that no matter how badly the crisis in mismanaged, jobs and lives permanently lost, come next election, the droves will go out and vote the current or a worse administration in.

We saw it in Zim and we’ll see it here.

Having seen the unruly masses shopping and carrying on as if all is normal the last few days, I don’t think government needs to even think about stage 3. I would not be surprised if we revert to stage 5.

Too many people making millions out of illicit operations……Mario, Mohammed and friends.

Good one and I am in agreement with your view.

The Command Council sits around all day finding reasons why things CANT be done with specific reference to opening the economy.

What if they say we have to be at level 3 by the weekend. Level 2 by next weekend and Level 1 by the end of the month.

With this out the way you now say what do we have to do to make it happen. Make a little list. Brief your people and ensure it happens.

Does not help sitting in a corner telling each other what the latest fatality prediction by the WHO is.

Find reasons to do things not reasons NOT to do things.

BIIIIG mentality shift for the cadres. Imagine “DO THINGS”???

The command council and their cronies are working out how to profit from the crisis in terms of the protective equipement and medical supplies tenders, the Cuban doctors been hired at an exorbitant amount and offcourse the 500 billion stimulus plan and every other fund. They will be looting all of that.

Can’t believe anything this government says.

Agree. Cyril speaks with a forked tongue.
What he said in KZN recently , tells me has another agenda.

A president who cannot even put on a mask … is running our country…
he does not any solutions or answers.

Cyril speaks with testicles cut off by auntie NDZ

The lockdown is never going to end. All the phases have no timelines linked to them, and Bheki Cele threatened to send us back to level 5 if we do not behave.

The NCC answers to no one, no minutes to their meetings will be made available to the public, they are a law unto themselves.

Is it not against the Children’s Act to incarcerate children in this cruel and inhumane way, no social contact, no entertainment. My 3 year old grandchild is showing clear signs of depression without any access to playmates. Where are the groups always carrying on about insignificant things, yet now they cower in silence?

Good article. However my main concern is that I suspect some shenanigans and power struggles evolving again within government. Why has Cyril been so quite of late? NDZ and Cele leave me stone cold – power hungry duo then add Patel

Why is Cyril silent?

You would also be silent when Auntie NDZ cut your testicles off in public

Gatvol. That describes how I and most of my mates feel. Very upset with being treated like children, not getting any real data, and not seeing any end in sight. Maybe the government thinks it has things under control, but no one believes that for a moment. I don’t think they know how to proceed, but staying in lockdown is not the way.

They have painted themselves into a corner here. If they can read and follow the advice of a real international expert like Swedish professor Johan Giesecke, they would realise that lockdown was a mistake of epic proportions. Politicians never acknowledge mistakes, so they will justify the mistake by making more mistakes. They will try to hide their irrationality with more irrationality. They will try to cover their knee-jerk, ad-hock measures with more of the same.

How can they ever lift lockdown, or reopen schools even, when the tested infection rate is on the rise? If they wanted to “save lives” with lockdown when the infected population was small, how can they justify the lifting of lockdown when the infected population is large? Do they want to kill people then?

Those leftists who forced politicians to implement lockdown measures because “lives are more important than money” will now demand lockdown into infinity for the same reason. Like the SADTU teachers, they will demand their monthly salaries, but they will refuse to reopen schools because the children might “kill them with infection”.

This is how a fragile system implodes.

Sensei, I said from the beginning, BEFORE lockdown5, that it is a big mistake.

But everybody was saying flatten the curve.

Correct me if I am wrong, but did you not said the same?”

Flatten the Curve?

Well, we all should support lockdown if it served a purpose. That is the point though, it serves no purpose for the average person. I am against lockdown on a personal level, but I am also involved with a charitable organisation that runs a frail-care centre for more than 100 elderly, and we isolated them even before lockdown has officially started.

We don’t need to flatten the curve because the disease is not as deadly as they thought. Then, lockdown does a tremendous amount at the damage to the economy and general lockdown also harms the financial position of the frail-care centre. The children cannot afford to make even small contributions toward the unit costs of their parents because of lockdown. In this way, general lockdown is even causing harm to the elderly, the high-risk group. Now if lockdown is detrimental to the wellbeing of high-risk groups, who actually benefits from lockdown then?

In addition you choose the lockdown route knowing full well three quarters of the population wont be ably to adhere to it.

They have to collect grants.
They live in one room apartments.
Many are just plain stubborn when it comes to social distancing.

So now they trying a hybrid that will never work and you pickup the cost for the lockdown that did not work in lives lost and billions in debt because you closed the economy.

I am not sure about there only being bad options. The worst option is probably continuing with a hard lock-down. Since the start of the year global fatality rates has increased by the minuscule amount of 1.42% per day. Based on on historical data, there are about 150,000 global deaths per day, which means from start of year till now a bit more than 19m (without Covid-deaths). So now for total Covid-19 fatalities of 264,000 the world wants to shut down its economy? I understand the intention of trying not to overload hospitals, but the lock-down can only ever be a very short-term (and very expensive countermeasure). When the money flow dries up are the doctors and nurses going to keep on working because of their consciences? I doubt it. From a SA context even worse, with an average daily murder rate of 60 per day (total SA Covid deaths 161) you have to ask why the SA government has not been treating crime with the same amount of intent for the last 20 years. The only option should be to lift the lock-down in total (public gatherings like crowds for sports etc can still be kept in place for a while longer), ask everyone to wear face masks and wash hands and voila, there you go! This lock-down nonsense will just delay the deaths, there is no cure, but there is no reason for politicians to make this bad situation into a much worse situation. I am just waiting for the government to tell the poor people to eat cake….

We have around 7.1 million people in SA living with HIV, with about 240,000 new infections per annum (~600 per day). In March 2018 Statistics SA reported that HIV was indicated as the cause of death on the death notifications of 21 830 people in 2016. This number is an underestimate since death notifications do not allow for multiple causes of death to be indicated – in many cases where TB or pneumonia is written on death notifications HIV would be the underlying cause.

According to the 2018 WHO Global TB Report around 322,000 people fell ill with TB in South Africa in 2017. According to the 2018 WHO Global TB Report, roughly 78,000 people died of TB in South Africa in 2017 – of these 56,000 were HIV positive and 22,000 were not. Obviously the two are linked.

These two diseases really make covid insignificant.

Somehow the government seems to have lost the reason for the lock down strategy. We are not trying to stop the virus from spreading, we are merely trying to delay it so that public services can cope.

The virus will still be around for many, many years to come.
Not selling alcohol and cigarettes will not stop the virus (no I don’t smoke), nor make a significant change to the number of people getting sick. Closed schools will eventually have to open, irrespective.

Just be realistic in line with what the end goal is, please!

There is a serious shortagec of personal protective equipment for health care workers. Delays abound in the distribution from depots where there are plenty of supplies. And remarkably currently SA exports this equipment. Can anybody explain this situation? Feel free to verify my statements.

Good luck with your quest Larry.

The current ANC top brass learned their craft from the Soviets, in case anyone had forgotten why they call each-other ‘comrade’. They are naturally authoritarian and Politburian (“the Collective, Comrades”).

And Covid-19 has gifted them the wildest fantasy from their most emollient wet dreams: the ability to rule by decree, instead of constantly tripping over the confines of the law imposed by democracy. Such ambrosia, once tasted, is not easily foresworn, as demonstrated by Patel sticking his foot in his mouth over hot food, and, a day later, writing a regulation to turn his lie into truth.

In case anyone should accuse me of overstating the ANC’s authoritarian tendencies, a reminder that less than half a decade ago, a sitting president, elected on an ANC ticket, told us he’d like to be a dictator for six months. In the wake of that remarkable utterance, there was not a squeak from Luthuli House.

Concur Rob – Everyone should read their freedom charter and election manifesto then all of this will make complete sense as it is totally aligned !! Brace for more !!!

” ………some vague deadline of maybe going into Level 3 in October.”

There will be food riots long long before October. I drive through central Pretoria every day: the informal sector is wide open and working and this includes the informal car repair places in Bloedstreet. The cops just drive by. Traffic and pedestrian volumes are up every day. The lockdown will be ignored as people drift back to work and the govt plays the silence game.

Larry Claasen always uploads thought provoking good reads..

Thank you

I always remember Richard Quest’s comments when interviewed by Bruce Whitfield in Davos about Anc credibility
“credibility , what credibility “ he said and elaborated on state capture and incompetance . The Anc is corrupt , useless and selfserving – finish and klaar

Cyril, having started so well at the outset, has since been woeful. His tendency to rule from the rear has been very much in evidence at a time when we need real leadership – and, indeed, when he had a free ticket (in the form of covid-19) as an excuse to make some REAL changes. This is not an unintelligent person. I have no doubt, prompted by Tito (who must have balls the size of Texas) , that deep down he knows what is required at this time. Level 3 in October – Sefrica will have slipped off the planet by then. Time for him and his friggin cronies to take their fingers out and give this country the leadership we all crave and deserve!!!!
Can’t see it happening though. This same ANC which has been farting around ideology since 1994 is the reason we’re in this mess – nothing to do with a little virus either – which will, no doubt, be blamed!!!!

The sad truth is that the government has sacrificed credibility and anything it says is questioned. They need to act fast and justify all their actions. Trust has gone.

Let’s just open up . If the cases/healthcare capacity grows , there will be an early warning if we test enough.

Lockdown again when the need arises.

Prevention is better than cure , only if it’s cheaper. The cost of staying locked down is to high

In a situation of two extremes i.e. total lockdown vs a totally open economy, I would suggest a compromise. Go to stage 2 or something and see how it goes. Do a pilot project in a certain area and see what the results are. However, this “All or Nothing” approach doesn’t serve anyone well. If 160 people have died out of 59 million, that means a mortality rate of 0.00027%. Now contrast that with something like 60%-70% of our economy which is currently dead, and then ask yourself if the end justifies the means.

What you are asking for is unreasonable to the ANC government.

A very fair assessment…a balanced piece. A black swan!

Just wondering late last year our town was cut off for 2 days from the rest of RSA due to road closures by the ANC voters. Only because of service delivery and ANC infighting. No one got arrested. Perhaps these people will do us the same favor again and express their displeasure with the ANC

I think a starving poor man and his family would rather take their chances out there than starve to death.

Remember that communist regimes and starvation go hand in hand. A few million dead to further an ideology is of no concern to them.

We can’t expect a barely-literate government to give any sort of answers that they can explain.

Do you honest think that someone like Bheki Cele understands maths? He might read at a grade 2 level, but maths he cannot do.

Crime stats? Whatever he is told to write down or alternatively the number of missed calls he’s received today.

Our indebtedness is spiralling out of control if you think a Rand of R18.50 to the USD is bad, wait till the Emperor wakes up! I am afraid we are past to point of return, Haiti her we come!

End of comments.



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