Government’s disgraceful pandemic response won’t be forgotten

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SANDF presence at the Bosman Taxi rank in Pretoria during a visit by Gauteng MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo. They launched the taxi rank Covid-19 support committees to ensure full compliance with public transport regulations in order to curb the spread of the virus on July 21, 2020. Photo: Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images
SANDF presence at the Bosman Taxi rank in Pretoria during a visit by Gauteng MEC for Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo. They launched the taxi rank Covid-19 support committees to ensure full compliance with public transport regulations in order to curb the spread of the virus on July 21, 2020. Photo: Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images


The inhumane, corrupt and unlawful government response to Covid-19 must be remembered as the worst violation of civil liberties since 1994.

Resulting from the alcohol ban, Collins Khosa was brutally killed on April 10 2020 by security forces for holding a glass of alcohol. Shamefully, Covid-19 contracts worth R2.1 billion were flagged for possible corruption and food parcels meant for the poor were stolen. By April 30 2020, the country had lost R1.5 billion in revenue resulting from the unlawful ban on the sale of tobacco products.

From its founding, the ANC has been committed to incrementally acquiring all “levers of state power” in an effort to advance the national democratic revolution (NDR). This led to the establishment of the cadre deployment committee, which was found to be central to the development of state capture. The infringement of civil liberties was always a natural outcome of ANC ideology, and the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity to enforce it.

READ: SANDF sued for R145 million

Collectively the alcohol ban, welfare crisis, unlawful cigarette ban, and anti-market government policy has delivered an unemployment crisis, record inflation and unimaginable levels of corruption. The 66.5% youth unemployment rate, 6.5% inflation rate and R100 billion state capture dealings have crippled South Africa. This all combines to highlight a poverty-stricken state under the decades-long ANC government.

So, when the health minister suddenly repeals remaining Covid-19 regulations, against the backdrop of a scandal riddled presidency, South Africans must never forget.

On the streets of Soweto, citizens were inhumanly forced to do pushups as punishment for breaking the lockdown rules. An elderly woman was shoved into a police van for selling atchar, and videos showed surfers and joggers being hauled into custody in the name of “public health”.

In total more than 400 000 citizens were arrested for breaking the draconian lockdown rules. However, this shameful use of force would always be a natural consequence of a party bound by the communist doctrine.

An uncaring government has been embroiled in corruption scandals, from ministers down to ward councillors, all while citizens were locked down. About R1.4 billion was wasted on parties, dinners and hotels during the lockdown and councillors stole food parcels from the vulnerable poor. The repugnant behaviour of this government during the pandemic is a stain on our democracy.

A member of the City of Cape Town's Traffic Servic
A member of the City of Cape Town's Traffic Services puts on a personal protective suit to prevent him being infected prior to driving the vehicle of an arrested motorist to the police station, at a vehicle checkpoint in Parklands to enforce the lockdown regulations and curfew of the Disaster Management Act to fight the Covid-19 pandemic on July 25, 2020. Photo: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

Inept decision-making from the Cabinet resulted in two economically brutal bans. The alcohol ban cost the economy R64.8 billion, putting 248 756 jobs at risk last year. In 2020, prohibition destroyed 7 400 jobs in the beer industry. The hospitality industry, which constituted 3% of GDP in 2018, was also crippled.

In a scathing ruling handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal, the court found that the tobacco ban was unlawful, unscientific, and violated the right to property and trade. It also found that the reasons for maintaining the ban were “constitutionally perverse”.

READ: Covid-19 surge | SANDF deployed to Gauteng

The price of illicit cigarettes increased by 4.4% per day and 90% of smokers continued smoking despite the ban, thus making the R2.4 billion loss in excise taxes over eight weeks unfathomable to the court. It has also been pointed out that the taxes could have funded additional hospital capacity, instead of funneling into the black market. No scientific evidence was provided to show that the tobacco ban would reduce harm for the smokers from Covid-19. The court ripped into government’s arguments, finding that the encroachment of constitutional freedoms was without merit.

Countless opportunities were available to save the economy. If government decided to allow independent power producers onto the grid, then load-shedding would have been avoided last year. Repealing broad-based BEE and the minimum wage legislation would have unlocked the job market for young unskilled workers. Following an education-based approach, instead of outright bans, would have prevented supply chains from collapsing altogether.

However, the ANC’s ambitions to achieve the NDR pushes them towards power centralisation in the form of Eskom, while incentivising the state to control private industry through stringent regulatory frameworks. Importantly, clamping down on freedoms to engineer social and political outcomes as prescribed in the communist doctrine, was achieved. Ultimately the pandemic response has served as a trial run for the ANC’s vision for South Africa.

PHOTOS: Army, police take to the streets of Soweto on a Covid-19 blitz

Clinging to the hope that more commissions or new oversight committees will bring “change” is a futile exercise. The ANC’s ideology is engrained with centralised control which breeds patronage networks. As witnessed during the Covid-19 response, councillors stole to provide for their inner circles, while the tenders served as a self-enrichment scheme through loyal cadres.

While the last Covid-19 regulations may finally be gone, the damage inflicted on South Africa may be generational. Apart from economic destruction, the dignity of thousands of citizens were undermined during the lockdown.

May South Africans never forget the unconstitutional damage inflicted on them.

Salie is a contributing author for the Free Market Foundation and is a policy fellow at the foundation for consumer freedom advancement


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