/ 29 November 2020

God just got his hand back

1986 Fifa World Cup Quarter Final Argentina V England
Legend: One of Diego Maradona’s many career-defining moments was his ‘hand of God’ goal during the 1896 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals against England. Photo: Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive


The sun isn’t up yet. 

I’ve been on the go for hours. After a night of trying to convince myself that I was asleep, I gave up. Accepted the fact that sleep wasn’t going to come: climbed out of bed, grabbed a coffee and powered up the laptop. There’s plenty of work that still needs to be done before the week’s newspaper cycle ends, so there’s no point in putting off the inevitable and staying in bed.

A morning date with the ANC’s discussion documents for its national general council (NGC) meeting, set for sometime next year, awaits. I’ve been trying to read the 220 pages of inputs aimed at guiding the comrades through developing policy for the governing party since the weekend. I’m somewhere near page 17. Perhaps its age, or cynicism, on my part, but I’m battling. Perhaps it’s the understanding that most of the comrades who develop policy at the NGC won’t even read the documents, and will just wait to be told what to think by the leaders of their faction, and how to vote, that makes it all seem like a massive waste of time and energy. 

I’m battling. Most of the comrades who develop policy won’t read the documents, and will wait to be told what to think and how to vote…

Clawing my way through the final weeks of  the working year appears to have gotten the better of me. 

This happens. The Covid-19 lockdown has made things worse. There’s been no real respite since March. The normal things that bring joy to the job — travelling; people; the weirdness that makes the world liveable — and that provide the stimulus to write are gone, for the foreseeable future.

I’ve spent much of this week forcing myself to make phone calls to people who didn’t want to talk to me; staring at a blank laptop screen, trying to coax out words that aren’t coming, that maybe aren’t even there. 

Producing the next couple of editions is going to be rough; a grind; a grim, joyless task, if the truth is to be told.

The death of football’s ultimate rebel, Diego Maradona, at the age of 60, on Wednesday has left me shaken, taking some of the joy out of life. Not that it was unexpected, but it was a fresh reminder of my own mortality; of the fact that we all, ultimately, pay the price for our actions, no matter how talented, how gifted we are.

It knocked the heart out of me when the news broke that the greatest player to wear the number 10 jersey was dead. 

What a footballer. 

Diego beat England and Belgium by himself to get Argentina to the World Cup final in Mexico 1986. Took a kicking for 90 minutes from the West Germans in the final to create the space for goals from José Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano and still managed to lay on the pass that set up Burruchaga’s winner in the 86th minute. 

Diego changed Italian football. Put Napoli on the footballing map, winning the southern Italian team its first scudetto while battling a massive cocaine problem.


God, it appears, has gotten his hand back.

It’s Day 245 of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The number of new infections of the virus is continuing to climb, daily, with cases for the past 24 hours back in the 3 000 bracket, the death toll shooting upwards.


The Eastern Cape is in deep trouble. The province’s health system is close to being overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases, swamped by the flood of new cases.

The Western Cape isn’t far behind. Infection numbers are climbing in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere, just in time for the borders and airports to open fully for the festive season. The bulk of South Africans are getting ready to go home for Christmas.  The rest are getting ready to go on holiday.  

It’s pretty clear things are heading in the same direction as they have in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, where the number of infections is higher than they were in the first wave of the pandemic. 

Which is sad. And, in many ways, unnecessary. Avoidable.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa moved South Africa to level one of the lockdown regulations, he made it clear that what happened next with the pandemic was pretty much left up to us. 

The head of state was upfront when he told us the government had done pretty much all it could it terms of policing our behaviour and forcing us to #RatherStayPozi. It was up to us to avoid catching, and spreading, the virus, to stop adding ourselves to the statistics. 

Wear a mask.  

Keep your distance.

Wash your hands.

Clearly, we haven’t listened. 

Perhaps it’s Covid fatigue; perhaps it’s stupidity, arrogance or a national refusal to do the right thing. Perhaps we’re incapable of changing our behaviour, of accepting reality and getting on with life because we don’t have any other choice, but we’ve thrown away the chance to avoid a second wave of infections and deaths.

What comes next is of our own creation.