Mr President, you have been warned


Like most of my fellow South Africans, I was a little disappointed that the head of state’s address at the family meeting he had called the night before didn’t amount to very much.

Two Pfizers and a booster later, I’m fully vaxxed and ready to go, so an announcement that it was time to live again would have been in order.

I’d been hoping — naively, I guess — that President Cyril Ramaphosa would read the room and finally lift the Covid-19 state of national disaster he imposed two years ago, given the outcry that his failure to do so on 15 March.

Hope — and the 11-day break from club football — drew me to the TV screen, once again, to see if the president would do the right thing and lift the smallanyana state of disaster that’s been in place for so long now that it is starting to feel permanent.

Instead, Ramaphosa gave us the go-ahead to de-mask in the street — not that anyone in Durban has been wearing a mask outdoors since last July — and to get back into the stadiums, provided that we are vaccinated or freshly PCR tested; and announced fewer regulations for tourists coming into the country.

Way less than any of us had been hoping for — apart from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who’s been in charge of the country’s pandemic response since Ramaphosa gave her the keys in March 2020 — a tone-deaf response to the changing conditions around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Granted, Thuma Mina heard the threats of legal action by opposition leaders — the announcement that post-Covid health regulations are out for public comment pushes them back for a month — but that appears to be it when it comes to acknowledging that it’s time to move on.

Perhaps Ramaphosa and his cabinet would be in more of a hurry to lift the regulations and open up the rest of the economy if they, like many of us, had suffered salary cuts, retrenchments and the like, rather than receiving salary increases and improved perks.

The truth is, Ramaphosa should have rather issued a statement about his non-decision — sent us a WhatApp; tweeted — instead of wasting our time and our electricity with a live announcement to say he’ll talk to us next month.

Waiting for the president to lift the disaster regulations has become like the wait for Arsenal to sign a striker, along with a central defender and a holding midfielder, season after season, transfer window after transfer window.

All talk, no result.

There’s lots of words, speculation about budgets, plenty of leaks, tip-offs and off-the-records before the window closing, then, come deadline day, no signing, just another pile of hot air and excuses for failing to do the right thing.



Perhaps it’s time to join whatever court action is brought by the opposition parties next month if Ramaphosa fails to lift the disaster regulations again. Make an application as an amicus curiae.

There are plenty of grounds to be declared a friend of the court — not just the frequent appearances during my misspent youth — loss of income; impairment of dignity; restriction of movement.

Perhaps a standalone court application is in order; a solo prayer for a declaratory order compelling Ramaphosa to personally sort me out for income lost since he closed the country down — or give me a buffalo.

It’s sounding increasingly attractive, after 24 months of being too broke to pay attention.

Borrow a suit and tie, appoint Dali Mpofu as pro bono counsel — word has it Dali will take on any case with the potential of embarrassing Ramaphosa so he may even do it pro amico — and hit the high court on 16 April, guns blazing.

Perhaps it’s time to go the whole hog — take advantage of prevailing political conditions; crank things up; have a chat with some old friends I haven’t spoken to in years.

It’s do-able.

Reach out to Comrade Carl and Mzwanele Manyi — neither has much to do these days — maybe even the twins (they can still tweet from Dubai), set up a stage for lunchtime and after court to address the masses expectantly gathered outside. See if you know who has any open spaces on his dance card during April.

Round up some bishops.

If Ramaphosa tries to extend the disaster again in April — or appoints a Zondo commission into whether it should be lifted — I’m lawyering up and making some calls.

Mr President, you have been warned.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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