Some are more equal than others

Thursday. 

Another week of life under lockdown is almost over. It started pretty well. Our long awaited payments from the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) finally arrived on Monday. It appears all my complaining in print may have finally paid off; by the end of the day the cash was safely in my bank account.

The money disappeared in an awful cacophony of SMS notifications within a second of it landing, but I’m still grateful. Some creditors are off my back — at least for a while — and my belief in the system was restored, at least temporarily. There are another couple of payments in the pipeline. Although they won’t cover the salary cut I was hit with in May, along with millions of other South Africans, the payments help.

Like the rest of the country, I’m wondering where the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) cats at the funeral of struggle veteran Andrew Mlangeni got their gwais from. They were captured on camera puffing away outside the venue where the service for the last of the Rivonia Trialists and the chairperson of the ANC integrity committee was taking place on Wednesday afternoon. 

Did the senior officers — I dodged the army back in the day so I’m assuming the spaghetti on their shoulders signifies rank — buy them, in defiance of the lockdown regulations they have been deployed to enforce, at R150 a packet, like the rest of South Africa? 


Perhaps.

They, unlike most people in South Africa, can afford to pay black market prices, courtesy of their uninterrupted salaries and the extra R10 000 a month each of the troops get for taking part in the military mobilisation as part of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Or did they, the custodians of the disaster management regulations banning the sale and purchase of tobacco products, the guardians of the glorious battle against the skyfing menace, abuse that position and keep some of the contraband confiscated by their juniors for themselves? 

Perhaps.

From the footage, the officers didn’t appear to be smoking cannabis — the zol that Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma spoke of so tenderly early in the lockdown — so I don’t see how else they could have got their skyfs. It’s not likely that any cigarette smoker would have been able to stockpile four months of gwais by March 26. Before I gave up in 2011, I was a 40-a-day fiend. That would have been 250 packets of 20 — 25 cartons — thus far for me, or 125 packets — 12 or so cartons — for an ordinary smoker consuming a pack a day. That’s a lot of money, even at pre-Covid prices, unless of course you’re scoring a cool R10 000 on the 15th of every month for the very foreseeable future.

Perhaps the police minister, Bheki Cele, will ask the officers for the receipt for their smokes, just as he orders his lot to do when it comes to the public? Charge them and prosecute them, like they did with my bra Arab for selling Pacific Blue at the start of the lockdown.

It may happen.

There’s a rising tide of outrage over the rampant looting that’s taken place since the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in; a massive anger generated by the hypocrisy of the governing party when it comes to enforcing the lockdown regulations on its own.

Khongolose is in need of some sacrificial lambs; a couple of fall guys to nail, publicly and swiftly, to divert attention from the looting by its public officials, its leader at all levels of government, so a highly public slap on the wrists for them can’t be ruled out. 

Soldiers are expendable, after all, unlike health MECs, cabinet members and presidential spokespersons.

Kings.

Then again, why bother?

The rest of the lockdown regulations — social distancing, the wearing of masks, the 50-person funeral limit — were clearly disregarded by the ANC leadership during Mlangeni’s funeral, so why bother picking on the army cats for smoking? 

The SANDF literally got away with murder since the lockdown kicked in, so what’s a couple of cigarettes at a state funeral?

The party has made it clear, increasingly so since the beginning of the lockdown, that there is one set of rules for its members and leaders and another for the rest of South Africa. 

Do what we say, not what we do. 

What the ANC and government did at Mlangeni’s funeral simply reinforced this fact, driving it, very publicly, home.

To all intents and purposes, the ANC appears to have dumped the Freedom Charter that guided Mlangeni’s generation and swapped it for a copy of George Orwell’s 1984.

Not as a tool for analysing what has gone wrong in the party, but rather as a playbook, a bible, a “how to” guide for self-enrichment and theft, for destroying the revolution it was once a part of.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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