In The Marvelous Land of Oz, author L Frank Baum said: “Everything has to come to an end, sometime.” This sentence came to mind as South Africa moved to national lockdown level 2 this week.
The statistics of the country’s economic performance, job losses, company closures and poor revenue collection tell a story of a lockdown whose effect is beyond what we could have imagined.
We’ve read, with anger, how the country was fleeced by unscrupulous tenderpreneurs who inflated prices of much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to make a quick buck while the country was fighting the Covid-19 coronavirus.
As many industries were closed and restrictions imposed on what could be sold, a black market emerged that could supply anything one wanted – from cigarettes to booze and everything in between.
But these wants didn’t come cheap and one would swear contraband suppliers were competing with the PPE tenderpreneurs to see who could charge the most.
The price for ciggies and booze went up by as much as 500% – sometimes more, depending on the area.
Initially, suppliers were cautions about where and how they did business, but this changed as lockdown wore on and demand grew.
Soon enough, they were peddling their goods in shopping centre parking lots and on street corners, shoving packs of ciggies at would-be customers. Whether you smoke or not, you were not spared their aggressive marketing strategies.
The booze brigade, I am told, was selling its wares on a referral basis.
While I do enjoy a good drink (I’ve never smoked), I stayed away from supporting these vultures who were preying on people’s cravings. I could neither justify nor support the excessive spending to quench a thirst that would be back the following day. I chose to be part of the Oros brigade.
Following last Saturday’s announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that we would be moving to level 2, and that the booze and tobacco bans would be lifted, I noticed that the vultures spent the weekend offering huge discounts on their stock to get rid of it before Tuesday, when the ban was lifted.
Some customers even told these vultures to keep their stock as they would rather wait for a few days before hitting the shops to get their fix.
Everything has to come to an end, sometime, Baum said, and this is the end of the business road for the vultures for now, unless South Africans fail to behave appropriately and the infection rate goes up again and forces government to move the country back to a higher alert level.
Until then, let’s continue to do the basics as we have been doing over the past five months – sanitise, wash hands, keep a social distance and stay at home as much as possible. Be safe.