Football’s back but still no fags

Thursday.

Lockdown day 84.

An increase in the tempo of the early morning rain bucketing down over Durban and the temperature drop accompanying it had me up and out of bed way before I’d intended.

The previous evening’s announcement of the move to a new-look level three of lockdown by President Cyril Ramaphosa — and Arsenal’s awful return to Premiership football after the Covid-19 layoff — meant a later night than usual, so a bit of a lie-in, at least until the sun came up, would have been in order.

The less said about Arsenal’s first outing the better. Manchester City were always going to be an extremely tough ask — perhaps at this stage an impossible one — but Wednesday night was pitiful.

It wasn’t just David Luiz, the premiership’s number one red-card artist and the two amateur-hour goals he gifted City with. The midfield appeared to still be practising physical distancing, what with their inability to come within two metres of the City players moving forward. The Arsenal strikers might as well have been at home, taking cover from the virus and playing fantasy football, given their level of participation in the game.

Perhaps they don’t want to play in either the Uefa Champions League or the Europa League next season given the strong likelihood that the Covid-19 virus will still be around, and are doing their bit to maintain physical distance from clubs on the continent. Perhaps Arsenal are simply out of their depth when taking on top five clubs away from home — they haven’t beaten one away since 2015 — and coach Mikel Arteta doesn’t have the experience and vision to operate at this level.

Perhaps I should have given the Arsenal game a miss and watched Atletico’s 5-0 drubbing of Osasuna instead, sparing myself 90 minutes of torture.

Perhaps.

I’m conflicted about Dramaphosa’s long-awaited Wednesday night televised family meeting with us, and his announcement about the further reopening of the South African economy and the move to an augmented level three of lockdown with more economic activity, from salons to restaurants to casinos, getting back to work in the coming weeks.


On the one hand, I’m happy to be able to have a sit-down meal, or shave my head at the barber, or go for a punt at the casino, if I want to. I’m also happy that the people who earn a living from cooking for and grooming the rest of society can do so again, that more people will have the opportunity to feed themselves and their families.

The tourism industry has taken a hammering since March, so the opening up of hotels, lodges and the like is a good move, even if the new regulations are likely to still ban interprovincial travel except for business purposes and a lot of people are still going to stay at home, given the massive surge in the infection rate since the move to level three.

On the other hand, as more and more economic activities come back online and more and more people are moving around, an ever-increasing number of people are getting sick — and dying — from the virus. The more people back in the street, the greater the increase in the number of infections — and deaths — from the virus. It’s harsh, but there appears to be little we can do about it.

The regulations will flesh things out, but at a glance, the new lockdown regime appears to be a de facto move to level two, with all the new activities people will be allowed to engage in.

Except for buying, or selling, cigarettes.

I’m a bit baffled about why the president didn’t get to the point and announce it as what it is — level two fam, but no gwais yet — instead of beating about the bush with this “augmented”’ what what.

Perhaps Ramaphosa was too embarrassed to mention the smoking issue, given the apparent lack of scientific link between the tobacco ban and the fight against the pandemic, if the court papers submitted by the government to the challenge to the tobacco ban are anything to go by.

Perhaps officially keeping us on level three allows Ramaphosa to justify the continuation of the ban on cigarettes and tobacco products for a little longer and keep Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her faction within the ANC happy.

Perhaps this is Ramaphosa’s way of accommodating Dlamini-Zuma, knowing that her current gig as honcho of the regulations that govern our lives is as close as she is going to get to the presidency, which she missed out on in December 2017 when she lost the race to him, given her age and the reality that a second term beckons for him as the incumbent at the party’s next conference in 2022.

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.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.
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