Mondli Makhanya | National command council has become a mild form of a junta

The National Command Council updates the media. (GCIS)
The National Command Council updates the media. (GCIS)
GCIS

VOICES


If you live on planet Earth, you will by now know that Real Madrid were crowned champions of the Spanish LaLiga this week, lifting the trophy with a game to spare.

Better still, you should have been in front of your television to witness first-hand that bittersweet moment when Sergio Ramos lifted the trophy inside an empty stadium.

If you did not witness that moment, then you need to explain – very slowly and deliberately – what it is that you were doing on Thursday night between 9pm and 11pm that was more important than watching Madrid win.

What made the moment even more worthy of appreciation was that, as the Galácticos were triumphing, that club of backward Catalan separatists was being shamed by average, mid-table dwellers Osasuna.

That was the joyful news in a rather grim week in which death and disease continued to dominate the national conversation.

We are in a time when we monitor the march of the Covid-19 coronavirus as we would the JSE.

These days, we think it is normal that the first thing we do in the morning or the last thing we do at night is check our phones for the latest infection, death and recovery numbers.

READ: How Zidane’s Real Madrid became champions of Spain, as Messi lashes inept Barça

It has now become second nature to also scan the globe to see how other nations are doing, as though we were looking to see how the Nasdaq, FTSE and Frankfurt bourses were performing.

On Monday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases told us that there had been 11 554 new cases and 93 deaths in the previous 24 hours.

On Tuesday, there were 10 496 new cases and 176 deaths in the previous 24 hours. On Wednesday, the update was 12 759 cases and 107 deaths. On Thursday, 13 172 new infections and 216 deaths.

And so it went on.

These figures pale in comparison with the US, where they speak of tens of thousands of daily new infections – a record daily increase of 77 000 cases was reported on Thursday – and the country’s death rate is about 140 000.

From the beginning of the lockdown, certain members of this cult called the national command council have looked down on the population, playing them like such Lego parts.

We see the scary numbers when we look at Brazil, India, Mexico and other countries that record telephone number-long statistics.

Clever wits will argue that this is because of these countries’ high populations, but the fact is that, even if you strip that out and do a like-to-like comparison, you will find that their situations are out of control.

It has to do with how the leadership of those countries has responded to the crisis.

While we are experiencing these macabre updates, we also look out for the folly of politicians who offer us a hilarious escape from the grim tidings.

The buffoonery of the UK’s Boris Johnson becomes the stuff of memes; the recklessness of Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is met with hilarity; while US President Donald Trump gets away with murder because the world expects him to sink to greater depths of outrageousness every day.

That way, these leaders get away with not having to be accountable, just like the class clown who the teachers do not expect high marks from.

Locally, we turn to the likes of Eastern Cape MECs Sindiswa Gomba and Xolile Nqatha, and to ministers Fikile Mbalula and Bheki Cele on the national stage, to provide escapism with their abnormal behaviour when they see a microphone in front of them (or, in the case of Gomba, even behind them).

READ: Eastern Cape premier calls for help from SIU to investigate Covid-19-linked corruption

But we expect more from our current crop of leadership because we do take most of them seriously, especially when faced with a major crisis.

But we would also like them to take us seriously and not treat us like pieces of a Lego puzzle – to be twisted around and fitted according to the toy owner’s wishes.

South Africa must remain conscious of the fact that the people we have ceded our freedoms to are politicians, and the one thing politicians want to do is grab power and hold on to it.

From the beginning of the lockdown, certain members of this cult called the national command council have looked down on the population, playing them like such Lego parts.

With the leeway given to them by the Disaster Management Act and the panic that the pandemic has wrought on citizens, they have behaved like they crave the power that Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and the Congo’s Sassou Nguesso wield in their tinpot dictatorships.

The dizzy heights this power has boosted them to has given them an attitude of “they will hate us anyway, but they’ll still do as we say” when making up some of the ridiculous rules with which they govern us during this time.

You sense it when they stand up to give direction in their live press conferences, where they have the attention of the entire nation that would rather be watching Buhle Samuels strut her stuff.

This unfortunate attitude is a great pity because, in March, when we set off on this journey of sacrificing freedom, we did so on the basis of trust that these powers would not be abused.

Led by an amoebic president who lets his lieutenants run rings around him in the name of consultative and consensus leadership style, the national command council has become a mild form of a junta.

The longer they enjoy these junta powers, the more they will get used to them, and they will find it hard to let go when we return to normality.

South Africa must remain conscious of the fact that the people we have ceded our freedoms to are politicians, and the one thing politicians want to do is grab power and hold on to it.

The sense of “they will hate us anyway” will just keep driving them to mess the citizenry around.


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Mondli Makhanya 

Editor in chief

+27 11 713 9001
Mondli.makhanya@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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