Don’t take the bait, Dr Killjoy

Thursday.

Day 70 of lockdown. 

Nine and a bit weeks of staying in the pozi. It’s been a long, dreary, anxious haul, one which is showing no sign of ending soon. Granted, we’re moving into another phase of living with the novel coronavirus, but things are about to get more dangerous. The daily escalation in the number of infections — and deaths — as the economy opens up, bit by bit, is a reminder that we are very far from emerging from the pandemic.

If we ever do.

To be honest, I can hardly remember what life was like before the Covid-19 lockdown was declared. It seems forever since I last watched a football match, shook somebody’s hand, swam in the sea. It’s been even longer since I watched a band live, drank a beer in the pub or went outside without feeling fearful, edgy, under threat from an invisible enemy. 


Perhaps these things are all, to borrow a term from the head of state, a thing of the past, gone forever — at least in the form in which we know them. 

It’s nearly the end of the newspaper’s new-look, shorter working week, courtesy of Covid-19 and the salary cuts it brought with it, so things could be a lot worse. Less money has to mean fewer days on the job, so bye-bye five-day week, hello three-day weekends. It’s a pity it took a global pandemic and another lurch towards the death of the news industry to shorten the length of the time spent in harness every week, but one works with what one has. 

I’m planning to spend my first work-free Friday fishing, now that the Cabinet, or the National Coronavirus Command Council, have allowed recreational fishing as part of the level three lockdown regulations. 

Unless, of course, somebody changes their minds between now and Friday sunup — which is when I’m planning to head down to Vetch’s Beach and throw a line.

I sincerely hope Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma doesn’t go into Dr Killjoy mode overnight. I had my reels serviced a couple of weeks before the lockdown was imposed, hoping that I’d get a throw in at some point. I can’t surf and swimming is still banned, so fishing is a decent trade off.

I’m not the world’s most efficient fisherman. I’m way more about the pursuit than the result, which means I usually catch nothing. But there are few things in this life better than watching the sun come up, rod in one hand, spliff in the other, feet and a bait in the water, hoping for a bite.

The level three and level four regulations have, according to the high court in Pretoria, turned out to be a tad lacking in logic and need to be amended. I’m sure South Africa’s cigarette smoking and drinking population would agree. And the estimated 900 000 cats who, like me, had been hoping the lockdown wouldn’t apply to fishing. Or anybody who had to wait eight weeks to buy a pair of flip flops. I broke one of mine about three days into the lockdown. 

Things are still pretty cockeyed, despite the apparent green light for people who fish. The beaches are still closed, along with municipal facilities, which could result in some interesting interactions with law enforcement at the water’s edge. I’m hoping the cops will be too busy laying in wait for early morning cigarette smugglers to head down to Vetch’s and mess up my Friday morning with some Babylon interpretation of the level three regulations and a trip to the Point cop shop for myself.

The weirdness with fishing under level three doesn’t end on the beach. 

Boat fishing is, we are told, permitted under level three, but charter fishing, which is boat fishing, but by paying punters on board, isn’t.

This doesn’t make any real sense. If part of the motivation for the move from level five to level four and level three is about opening up the economy, as we are told, then why not do so and open up economic activity by allowing charter fishing? 

The fishing charter industry in Durban is about to collapse if the operators don’t get their boats back in the water, even with a reduced number of clients to allow for social distance, some time in the very near future. What makes a charter boat more attractive to the coronavirus than one used for private fishing? More likely to contribute to the spread of the virus?

Perhaps this week’s judgment will give the National Coronavirus Command Council a bit of a wake up and they’ll take pause, adopt a more measured approach to governance by edict and fire whoever is advising them and Cabinet on the lockdown regulations. Including fishing.

Perhaps.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.
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