South Africa is in the fifth month of lockdown. The country has been affected not only by a spiralling economy and all the legalities that come with that, but also a raft of seemingly inconsistent and ill-considered 'rules' and regulations – one of which only came into being after the ban was announced.
Health and well-being is paramount and with that, no-one can argue. However, it is being argued that many of the regulations may bring greater ill-health than the COVID-19 pandemic itself. In the UK, The Telegraph reported that a newly revealed government report indicates that 'Tens of thousands more people could die from the effects of the Covid lockdown and efforts to protect the NHS than from the virus itself'. Published in April by experts from the Department of Health, the Office of National Statistics, the government's Actuary Department and the Home Office, the report said that up to 25 000 people could die from delaying treatment for non-coronavirus-related illnesses in the first six months of the pandemic, with a further 185 000 dying in the medium to long term. Experts say that healthcare delays and the economic fallout of the coronavirus could result in up to 200 000 deaths. The report also warned of a rise in suicides, deaths owing to accidents in the home, and domestic violence.
However, Simon Wren-Lewis, an Oxford economics professor, commented that government's focus "should be on ridding the UK of coronavirus rather than continuing to ease lockdown. If we continue to put ending the lockdown above bringing infection levels down, the "grim reality of a deeper and longer recession will only become more likely".
No-one discounts the need to ensure that beds are available for those who battle COVID-19, but the mixed messages and regulations that go out are, at times, beyond understanding.
The alcohol ban came out of the blue – no producers or shop owners were given any warning and President Ramaphosa made the announcement before the regulation came out; although that followed swiftly a half hour later. Since government has stated how important it is for people to be employed – which we echo wholeheartedly – it is worth considering the tens of thousands of people who are, once again and so unexpectedly, without work. And yet another revenue stream has now dried up for government. According to stats, the alcohol industry lost R18bn in revenue and R3.4bn in excise taxes from the beginning of lockdown to 1 June. The Department of Trade and Industry revealed that the tavern industry is estimated to be worth between R40bn and R60bn and accounts for 80 to 90 percent of township alcohol sales and 43 percent of all alcohol sold in South Africa. It is unfortunate that, for so many years, government did not introduce programmes to educate its citizens about the consequences of alcohol abuse, nor the consequences for those who accept bribes for turning a blind eye to drunk driving.
And of course there are so many other anomalies of which everyone is aware – such as taxis being jam packed, oh, of course with a mandatory number of centimetres of open window, but there can be no visiting of relatives and friends.
The worrying aspect of the current situation is that many people are tired of incomprehensible decision making and being treated as brainless; they are taking less care; the exact the opposite of what government wants to achieve.
And as our money goes into the bottomless pit that is SAA, government has secured an IMF loan to the tune of R70 billion. Corruption abounds and goes unpunished – will government have to account for every cent?
In South Africa, August is Women's month, marked on 9th August. Celebrations are likely to be muted during lockdown. As women globally continue to fight for equality, the traditional roles women play as nurturer and carer are being sorely tested during this time of uncertainty. Coming to terms with being unable to spend time with family members in need during this time, while wearing additional hats such as teacher comes with a price. In addition, the abuse of women in all walks of life rises. This crisis knows no boundaries or time frames and the success in bringing perpetrators of abuse to court eludes authorities. In a 'good news' category, the decision by Sudanese authorities to make major changes to their laws, including scrapping female genital mutilation, public flogging, and the requirement that a woman must get a permit from a male family member to travel with their children can be celebrated.
without prejudice wishes the women of South Africa the strength to continue the fight for what is right, while retaining the essence of being a woman, not in a man's world, but in a world where there is a place of value for everyone.