Masterclasses in duck-and-dive


Day 238 of the Covid-19 national lockdown. 

It’s been a year and two days since the first case of the virus was detected in China. 

There’s still no cure for Covid-19. 

There’s still no vaccine available. 

People are still dying. 

In numbers. 

The second wave of infections that is decimating the United States and Europe is showing no sign of letting up. Back home, the numbers are climbing again, particularly in the Eastern Cape, and look set to climb further in other parts of the country as the festive season starts up. 

Like soon-to-be-former US President Donald Trump, the Covid-19 virus is going nowhere, any time soon.

It’s a sobering thought — and a clear indication that we stand a pretty strong chance of the lockdown still being in place here come March 26 next year. 

Even with the news of some potential breakthroughs in the race to find a vaccine, there’s little chance of one being approved, produced and distributed before the end of the first quarter of 2021.

A locked-down festive season is going to be weird. A “challenge”, to borrow a term from those who govern us. Durban, in particular, will be a handful, given the annual pilgrimage to the beachfront by two-thirds of South Africa, all keen to get their feet wet after nine months of being locked down. 

How does one count down the new year if one has to be in the pozi by midnight? 

Five, four, three, two, curfew? 

What about the fireworks? The traditional happy happy?

How is that gonna work?

Like Major One, the runaway lahnee of the EFT Church, I’m no prophet. I do, however, foresee that this is gonna end badly, given our nation’s love for the demon drink and general unwillingness to do what we are told, especially after a couple.

Perhaps the boss will rework the curfew hours, give the punters an hour or two to usher in the new year, avoid a pitched battle on the Durban beachfront. Perhaps he’ll lift the lockdown, leave us to our own superspreading devices.


Either way, I’m gonna take some edibles and go to bed early. 

Sleep through it all. 

Wake up in 2021.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I wonder what the magistrate was thinking when she gave Chipiliro Gama and his wife Mary bail. One doesn’t need to be a prophet to see that they were always going to do a runner, passport or no passport, as soon as they could, which makes the failure of the police to keep them under observation after they were granted bail all the stranger. 

The Gamas were always going to take whatever gap they could — be it in the Malawian president’s jet or in the boot of a stolen Beemer making its way to Lilongwe — and hit the border well ahead of their Monday court appearance.

If the Gamas make it back to court, it’s despite the best effort of our authorities, rather than because of them.

It’s also day four of five scheduled days of evidence at the Zondo commission by former president Jacob Zuma. 

Zuma, not surprisingly, hasn’t given a word of evidence in response to the wagonload of testimony placing him firmly at the centre of the state capture project. Instead, his lawyers have done their best to trash the commission, arguing that Zuma appointed the body as part of a conspiracy against himself.

Weird, but then again, Nxamalala and his members live in a parallel universe to the rest of us, a world in which pretty much everybody — including Zuma himself, given that he appointed the commission — is out to get the former head of state.

That said, Zuma’s legal team have given something of a masterclass in running down the clock, keeping him off the stand with more delaying tactics aimed at taking up all five days with legal arguments challenging the credibility of Zondo — and the commission — instead.

Cynical, but effective, given that the aim is, after all, to avoid Zuma answering questions on the witness stand.

Chow day one with the application for Zondo’s recusal. Day two was always going to be eaten up by Zondo preparing his judgment. The deputy chief justice has a reputation for long, detailed judgments from his days at the labour court, so that’s Tuesday out of the way without uBaba uttering a word. Throw in a supplementary affidavit on Wednesday arguing that Zondo is, in fact, friends with Zuma, just to raise additional issues for Zondo to respond to, and there goes day three.

Bye bye Wednesday.

Thursday — judgment day. Recusal or no recusal, another day for testimony has been eaten up, without uBaba answering a single question. 

Mission accomplished.

Subscribe to the M&G

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.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

Related stories

General Counsel of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year

China’s resource-for-infrastructure deals

Are RFIs a viable model for aiding Africa’s economic development?

Covid vaccines: Hope balanced with caution

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Covid-19 vaccines offer hope as world leaders plan for future

Hopes over Covid-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient

Malawi elections provide a global lesson in democracy

COMMENT: Opposition candidates and party can increase their chances of success at the polls by putting aside minor differences and presenting a united front

Zondo tightens his grip with criminal complaint against Zuma

The state capture commission’s star witness now faces a criminal complaint and another summons

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

General Counsel of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year

CR17 report is not perfect, but the investigation was rational,...

So says public protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane’s lawyer, who said she had reason to suspect the money was being laundered through the campaign

‘We struggle for water, but power stations and coal mines...

A proposed pipeline will bring water polluted with Gauteng’s sewage to the Waterberg in Limpopo to boost the coal industry during the climate crisis

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…