Hendri Pelser
4 minute read
13 Jul 2020
6:16 pm

I’m so over this hangover, Cyril

Hendri Pelser

The changes in the nature of the crisis being faced were never directly stated or communicated with the public. Not once was there a ‘my fellow South Africans, you know what, we really messed up’.

Police confiscating crates of alcohol from an illegal trader. Picture for illustration only.

As a general rule, I don’t think journalists, editors or commentators should call the President by his first name.

It cheapens the office. Generally speaking. Certain previous incumbents regardless.

In any case, rules are made to be broken (and, this headline needed it).

Take the lockdown rules for example.

You must be either stark raving mad or drunk (good luck with that now) to believe that the majority of the country has been following any of the lockdown rules over the last couple of months.

These rules have been the burden of but a few, mostly in urban areas.

Life has been going on for the most part.

Except, for the fact that people could not go to work, or missed their appointments at the local clinic, or could not eat.

Or, that they (apparently) could not zol or drink.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has had an impossible task. I do not envy the man.

However, he has tried to style himself as the father, the caregiver, and the protector.

In Sunday night’s address to the nation, he took this positioning a step further, scolding us as naughty children and taking our bottles away.

Why? Because alcohol is increasing hospital admissions and trauma cases during an epidemic, placing unwanted extra burden on the system.


Alcohol-related emergencies have always been part of the picture. During the booze ban, this nightmare temporarily subsided. People drink and do silly things – fact. The healthcare system in this country has always been broken – fact.

Are these events mutually exclusive? Are they directly related? To some extent yes. But no…

However, let’s start at the beginning: remember way back in March when Ramaphosa announced the hard lockdown and most of us applauded?

Initially, the reasoning was to ‘flatten the curve’.

Many of us willingly gave up some of our freedoms for the greater good. The impending doom, as it was imagined.

The curve never came and so the narrative was subtly changed to ‘get the healthcare system ready’ to deal with the pending Covid-19 influx.

Did that happen? Who knows: it has been exceptionally difficult to get any clear answer out of this government for some time.

Setting up a few field hospitals and taking more than a week for a Covid-19 test to be conducted has not helped anyone.

Why then continually change the narrative? Why change the goal posts at every turn?

Because it is easier to tell us what to do than to ask our permission. Because we are apparently in a “war time situation” so hard men and women can make hard decisions.

What nonsense.

As ministers fumbled through different lockdown regulations, banning tobacco, alcohol and even t-shirts (yes, that actually happened, remember?), something else changed: knowledge, forecasts, facts, and figures.

The expected situation back in March, based on international experience at that time, turned out to be somewhat false.

The more modellers came to understand the nature of the virus, the clearer it became that infection rates, especially asymptomatic infections, are much, much higher than originally thought.

This in turn meant that the overall death rate is much, much lower.

Yes, we were told again on Sunday that every life possible must be saved. The fact of the matter is that people will die. But, far, far fewer than initially stated.

These changes in the nature of the crisis being faced were never directly stated or communicated with the public.

Not once was there a ‘my fellow South Africans, you know what, we really messed up’.

The government has been playing a game of cat and mouse with the truth.

It is like being stuck in an abusive relationship with a drunk. When he is pissed, he smacks you around a little. The next morning his hangover is so bad that if you are lucky, all you get is a scolding. Sometimes, there is a bleary recognition of the truth through bloodshot eyes.

But that does not last because the hangover is so bad that he needs a dop to get back on his feet.

You know what: I’m so over this hangover, Cyril…

Hendri Pelser is the Acting Digital Editor of The Citizen.

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