Friday 22 January marks 302 days since President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed the first Covid-19 lockdown, on 26 March last year. For the best part of a year, the president, his cabinet and the national coronavirus command council (NCCC) have used the national disaster regulations to co-ordinate and drive South Africa’s response to the deadly pandemic, with varying levels of success.
South Africans have — with varying levels of enthusiasm — followed the government’s lead as the NCCC locked the country down to prepare the health system for the onslaught that the pandemic was to bring.
They have lived through the adjusted lockdown, extended to try to save livelihoods along with lives, and through the re-introduction of level three lockdown in response to the second wave of the pandemic.
Throughout all of this, the government has been firm in its assurance that a plan had been developed for the procurement of a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it became available on the international market. Billions were, we were told, being put aside for participation in the international Covax initiative to ensure our place in the queue, along with other countries, to procure our fair share of vaccines.
Likewise, we were told, the necessary billions were being invested to ensure our role in an African Union vaccine initiative, a second forum for collective vaccine procurement, this time on a continental level.
The assurances did not end there. South Africa was, we were told, in talks with Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and a number of other international manufacturers, in order to procure vaccines. And with India. And Russia.
It now seems that we have vaccines, and an overview roll-out plan. This starts with the healthcare workers who have sacrificed so much to keep people alive. That is to be lauded.
At the same time, however, it has become abundantly clear that the ruling party and, by extension, the government have not thought that we would need to pay for all this.
We now have scrambled conversations about tax hikes and other ways of raising cash.
The claim is that money is scarce. Not that this has hampered the government’s continued pouring of money into the broken national airline. In the ANC’s worldview it seems that lives are less valuable than what is now a vanity project. And it’s not like its cadres can’t steal and profit from a vaccine roll-out. Covid has shown that nothing will stop them looting.
Where we are now is unsurprising, given our leaders, a few exceptions aside.
Government needs to stop the promises, secrecy and lies and deliver on its vaccine plan.