Don’t rain on our panic parade!

2012-01-12 10:00

Georgina Guedes

Panicking is the third South African national pastime after watching sport and boozing. We relish the opportunity for a good old hand-wringing, cold-sweating, phone-all-your friends cadenza and embrace every chance we get like a bunch of determinedly vocal chickens clucking up a cacophony of terror.

Perhaps it’s our frontier mentality. Perhaps it’s that we live perpetually on a political and crime-fearing knife’s edge, where our worst fears seem inches away, but never quite manifest. Perhaps it’s that we’re bored by living in a country with no real threat of earthquakes and tsunamis or weather with a murderous bent, and where our only real food or fuel shortages are caused by fears of food or fuel shortages.

Whatever the case may be, present South Africans with an opportunity to whip themselves up into a froth, and we do, pretty reliably. The fact that the last time we all abandoned our workstations, drove home early, stocked up on baked beans and forwarded e-mails of farewell to the family cleaning up after a quake in New Zealand amounted to nothing doesn’t leave us feeling silly.

Instead, the national attitude seems to be one of “better luck next time”.

So, it was with no small measure of amusement that I read about the proposed amendments to the South African Weather Service Act, which would make it illegal for South Africans to circulate a severe weather or pollution warning without permission from the South African Weather Service.

Now, I can see where these lawmakers are coming from. They look at the chaos wrought on the roads by the ebullient panic-mongering of Johannesburg’s citizens, followed by … gasp! … a thunderstorm with hail, and think “Oh, for heaven’s sake!” I know I do. And then, because they’re in government, they try to do something about it.

It’s actually kind of sweet, if a bit naïve. I haven’t read the Bill, but I wonder if there’s anything in there on swarms of insects or fuel shortages or a Julius Malema march. South Africans will panic because they love a bit of snot and trane, not because they genuinely fear for their lives. In fact, I suspect that most of the drama is born from a desire to go home early, rather than having to wait half an hour for the rain to clear.

Be that as it may, there’s also something quite sinister in this attempt by the ANC government, yet again, to curtail its citizens’ liberties. Sure, we don’t need to forward weather warnings with gay abandon and sure, most warnings sent on email by concerned citizens are a load of tosh - but we should have the right to send them, silly as we may be.

While I think that the government spends a little too much time focusing on trying to get its citizens to behave themselves on a small scale rather than addressing the important issues like education or the fact that people get trampled to death seeking such a privilege for their children, they have to accept that from time to time, we are going to blow things out of proportion and act like idiots.

The erosion of civil liberties in response is immature at best and tending towards fascism at worst. There’s something to wring your hands about. Forward this column to seventeen of your closest friends and leave work by 3:30 at the latest – there are African Killer Bees on the horizon.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

Send your comments to Georgina

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • Lea - 2012-01-12 10:22

    A well written, very funny article.

  • Joe - 2012-01-12 10:33

    "Bees on the horizon"? Are those BEEs?

      Georgina - 2012-01-12 11:54

      Goodness, no, that's not what I meant at all. It was actually a reference to Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, in which the killer bees are used as a symbol of America's fears that never materialise.

      Joe - 2012-01-12 23:48

      I know, Georgina - just kidding. (You know how most comments on news24 end up being political :-) ).

  • John - 2012-01-12 12:10

    So now the Weather Forecast is going to come under the dreaded Infomation Bill.

  • tony.delucchi - 2012-01-12 12:38

    ...I really enjoyed that, thanks!

  • Kimcy1 - 2012-01-12 13:18

    As you wrote in your comments on the weather Bill that the goverment is not actually looking at governing, the ANC (Africa's New Corruption) are playing the deflection bat by sitting at the crease of control for the masses because they can. Power seems to be the corruption flavour of the week. Now it is weather or not they will find another thing to control. They couldn't control the Scorpions so they got rid of them. The way things are going it is no different to a Verwoerdian era in another guise.

  • Stephen - 2012-01-12 13:18

    Here's a weather forecast of my own that I'm freely passing on with no permission : Poor service delivery visibility and govermental foresight due to Alcoholic Haze and drifting,all en-compassing ANC smokescreens.

  • Anakin - 2012-01-12 13:33

    I sometimes use WunderMap to get forecasts, it's a great tool. For eg. JHB the URL is [ ] - just copy & paste to set up your own region. And I will warn my friends when I want to, not when the SA weather service issues an approval form in triplicate. Excellent article, thanks.

  • JudithNkwe - 2012-01-12 15:32

    What we need are more carrots and a lot fewer sticks - after all isn't their motto "working together we can achieve more"?

  • patcrockett - 2012-01-12 21:26

    Does this infantile bit of legislation mean that, if I say to my neighbour over the fence, "It looks like one heck of a storm brewing." that I am breaking the law?

  • Robin - 2012-01-13 06:14

    Bravo Gedorgina! One would hope that this anti-fearmongering bill will also include those who scare kids to death with doomsday threats from 'climate change' and AGW?

      Robin - 2012-01-13 08:17

      Oops! Apologies - the above should read 'Georgina'!

  • sam.kaitawa - 2012-01-14 15:18

    "New Zealand amounted to nothing doesn't leave us feeling silly." Aye? how dare you, it takes brains to be silly, what's you're excuse? Not sure if you're a saffa here in NZ or if you're using that as an example, next time an earthquake happens, which is frequent.....can we use SA as an excuse or do you still need refs? Awesome, are you in NZ? Are you a Saffa in NZ, are you still blaming us? Yay, anyway that we can annoy you just that a silly question?

  • Gail - 2012-01-14 16:38

    I want to spread a good rumour on here that I received on Facebook from an angry Saffa. Please tell whoever you like if you want to: Did you know that the blood of rhino poachers cures AIDS and HIV?

  • Zion - 2012-01-17 15:21

    I live in the Free State. Every time the weather office sends out its reports with the SABC news I add up the percentage rain my area is promised. Currently it is sitting on 150% Think I will eventually get it in one huge storm?

  • pages:
  • 1