Meaty matters plague me

Tuesday.

Day 12 of 21 under lockdown.

At least I think it’s day 12.

Keeping track of the days — and of what day it is — is becoming increasingly difficult the longer the lockdown goes on. The only thing separating Monday from Wednesday or Friday or Sunday is the Mail & Guardian’s production cycle. 

Every day is a deadline day. The seemingly never ending bustle of briefings and announcements by the president and ministers from the various clusters as they battle to fine tune the Covid-19 lockdown regulations. The realities of life mean that the end of the production cycle is no longer the focal point of the week.

Working remotely is still tough, even two weeks into the lockdown, but it is getting a little easier. The newsroom’s hangout diary meetings and reviews are going smoother than in the beginning. People are a lot more open to telephone interviews than a few weeks ago.

So am I.

It’s not the way I like doing things, but it beats dealing with the paranoia, the sense of dread, that comes with every mission into the streets these days.

Monday was cool. I got to have a chat with Doctor Fundi Nyati. Nyati is a corporate wellness specialist who has become something of an online mythbuster when it comes to Covid-19. He’s doing daily broadcasts to provide scientific information about the pandemic and regular updates to counter the conspiracy theorists who have popped up since the virus first surfaced.

Respect.

I first met the good doctor on the opening day of the ANC national elective conference at Mangaung in 2012. I was in less than showroom condition, courtesy of an all-nighter with JahNoDead. Our man very kindly put me on a drip and let me have a bit of a lie down in his clinic until I recovered, so he’s pretty solid in my books.

I’m faced with a dilemma.

Several, actually, but one weighs particularly heavily on my mind.

I’m gagging for some dhania mutton sausages. There are none in the freezer.

My usual supplier is Star Meats, in Sparks Road (known more recently as Moses Kotane Street). The balance of chilli and dhania in the Star sausages is perfect, just enough bite to accentuate, rather than overpower, the slight astringence of the dhania.

There’s one problem. Apart from standing in a crowded butchery during the lockdown.

Last week the manager of Star Meats was arrested for price-gouging in a raid by the South African Police Services, the KwaZulu-Natal department of economic development and the South African National Defence Force.

More than 100 customers had called the economic development department’s consumer protection unit to complain about the price increases since the Covid-19 emergency was declared. Star Meats had hiked the price of dhania mutton sausages to R100, the price of lamb to R155/kg, blaming the increase on the supplier.

Star Meats’ prices have dropped since the raid, but the way I see it, the damage is done. This is a time when people need to act like human beings, even if it’s not their normal way of doing things. Pushing up your prices to make hyper profits during a national disaster is pretty low. Star Meats won’t be seeing my face — or my money — again, not now, not ever.

At least I can look forward to searching for a new supplier of dhania mutton sausages when the president lifts the lockdown. My man, the Pooja Uncle, has already shifted to Desai’s, just round the corner in Spearman Road. The butchery is where the Fountain Bottle Store used to be, next door to the house where Rafiq Rohan’s arms cache was found when the cops caught him for bombing police flats in North Beach in 1989.

Rafiq was my news editor at The Post newspaper at the time. He had tried to recruit me to join him, not long after he came back from Lusaka the year before. Rafiq knew I was already politically active. I suppose he also assumed that being born in Belfast, I would have a taste for blowing shit up.

Fortunately, I refused.

One of my wiser decisions, it turns out, given that Rafiq ended up with the honour of being the last prisoner to occupy Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island.

I’m keeping track of which business people get arrested for profiteering and for breaking the lockdown regulations, not just for purposes of tracking what consequences, if any, they eventually face.

Not that I want to look for any of Rafiq’s “material” the cops might have missed back then.

When this crisis is over, the price gougers and the sweatshop operators need to pay a price — and face a boycott.

We need to be spending our money at those businesses that have played fair and those whose participation in the lockdown cost them money, not those who put workers’ lives at risk and ripped people off.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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