ABUSE OF POWER

ABUSE OF POWER

Corruption is the abuse of one’s position to enrich oneself. Cyril Ramaphosa does not need more money. He has lots of it, lots. Money does not incentivise him anymore. So guess what comes after that, power, ego. At the start of the lock down, he has called up 2280 troops from the SANDF to help the police to enforce the lock down he announced. Last night he has called up another 73180 troops to enforce his will onto the poor, hungry, defenseless and desperate people. The defense force is funded by the people to be there for their protection. Now it is turned against them. Now the armed is deployed against the defenseless. This is as despicable as one kicking a defenseless dog (or actually shooting one, like a member of the defense force did about a week ago because the dog barked at him, all caught on film. I saw it.)

This is abuse of power, to put it in very, very mild terms. This is serving nothing but his own ego, his own personal obsession to enforce his will upon the people. This is nothing else than corruption. This is nothing else than a perpetuation of the Zuma era in another form. I was full of hope for this country when CR took over the presidency. It seems I was totally naive. If it’s not the sick obsession with money, it’s the sick obsession with power.

A president acting in the best interest of his people is loved by his people. He does not need security guards to protect him, and he definitely does not need an army to enforce his will onto his people. This is nothing else but civil war, except that there are no shots fired because the people are unarmed and the government has the total might of the country’s armed forces behind it. So the army is there to enforce the lock down and to keep peace.

Let me tell you something about peace mr president. Keeping or maintaining peace under circumstances undermining peaceful coexistence does not exist. Nowhere and never in documented history did it exist. This is because the ideology that peace can ever be reached by negotiation, signing of agreements, war or in your case, suppression by force, is a fallacy. It is deceptive. Any government who has ever claimed to have accomplished peace by such means, has later woken up to the reality that all that was accomplished was a temporary enforced state of submission. All that is attained by such means is people living in quiet desperation and a subdued state of passive aggression until they find another way to vent their anger.

This will come and bite you in the back side at the next election at the very latest mr president, and it will not serve the agenda or interest of you, me, or anyone who has the best interest of this beautiful country with its special people at heart. 

You have been warned.

Simon van Deventer.

22 April 2020

THE IMMENSE PRICE OF FEAR OF DEATH

THE IMMENSE PRICE OF FEAR OF DEATH

Greed and obsession with power and control has been the driving force of the wars in history of mankind, taking many tens of millions of lives in the process.

Fear of death by a few for a relatively few this time had an immense impact on the vast majority of the living and in many poorer countries has made life unbearable and even unlivable for millions. When will we be able to get to grips with and accept the fact that our bodies do not live forever, that we can only defer death? And that fighting and non acceptance of this truth is the most selfish and unloving thing to do to ourselves, our loved ones and our fellow human beings.

All over we hear about the devastating effects of Covid-19. This is not a true statement. Covid-19 itself has had very little effect on our world. It is our fearful response, our mass hysteria, also fueled by the media, that has created the chaos.  How can a disease with a mortality rate estimated at between 0,5% and 0,06% of infected people make the whole country come to a standstill? The average age of the South African population is only 27, which may make our fatality rate even lower. How is it possible that a disease with these statistics can bring an economy to a grinding halt, robbing millions of people from a way to earn a living? It makes no sense whatsoever. It is indeed not possible. It is only man who can orchestrate this. And it has become clear that for this government, fear has become the strongest emotion, the strongest force. Logic, clear and rational thinking, has been thrown out the door.

It is fear and irrational thinking of the government that is responsible for this. It is the fear of losing face because of statistics, of being accused of not acting responsibly, of not following the others who set an example. Statistics of people dying is the only thing they are scared of. Hungry people do not get recorded. And when the economy folds and anarchy comes, they will blame it on Covid-19. Easy, no problem, no risk. They just did what the rest of the world did. They will defend themselves by saying in a very stately manner, that they did not want to take any chances with people’s lives. And the people will believe them. They will think they did what was best for them. It is all to blame on Covid-19. 

The sooner we accept death of our bodies as part and parcel of the life cycle, the sooner we will learn to act calmly, sensibly and rationally in all situations, and in the process help create a beautiful life for ourselves and all those around us.

Simon van Deventer

Ps. A word on the media: The way they broadcast the relentless increase in the death toll is as if it can actually come down! Are they really expecting the dead to come alive again, and then sensationalise it if it doesn’t? What are they trying to accomplish with this? Why would they not present the numbers in a logical way, also breaking it down in age groups for purposes of a better understanding and perspective?

Questioning the purpose of government

QUESTIONING THE PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT

A government should be there to provide an orderly and optimal structure in which its people can function optimally. They have been elected to act in the utmost good faith towards and on behalf of its people. A government is in service to its people. 

Why is this then that one most of the time feels that the people and the government is in opposition to each other, that they are fighting each other? Because government is focused on wielding power over the people, instead of bringing out the best in them.

How long must our country’s citizens remain law abiding while the government of the day is pressing and rubbing their faces into the dirt, even deploying the army that was supposed to protect us, the people, against us?

I again read in the paper this morning: “Statistics will guide government in its decision about lock down.” This confirms 100% my writing about the “Delusions created by immeasurability”.  They arrogantly and with no shame state this, not even mentioning or recognizing the plight of the millions of desperate people out there. 

Let’s consider the following scenario: As the curve remains relatively flat, and the masses driven by hunger and a feeling  of “they have been forgotten” get more and more out of control, government feels the pressure and starts relaxing the lock down. Infections  will increase (also under a lock down scenario) because that is the reality of the virus, but also because of more testing. As the numbers increase out of governments comfort zone, they reintroduce a lock down again (and saying: “See, the lock down was the right strategy!”) At this point, it would be the last straw for many businesses who have been opening their doors again and being in a life and death struggle for survival.

This would be the end of South Africa as we know it. As I have said so many times before, government has lost touch with reality. It is like we as a country have been bitten by a slightly venomous (latest and very credible research indicates an estimated but actual fatality rate of 0,06%) snake, and they (the doctor/government) has cut off a main artery so we can bleed out the poison. We are dying from loss of blood!!

Again I say we are acting as if we can end the spread of the virus with this lock down. If that was possible, the current sacrifice might have been justified, but that is just not possible and even prof Karim, head advisor for the government on the Covid-19 issue, confirms this. Current strategy is prolonging and deferring the curve unrealistically which will eventually lead to an out of control steepening of the curve because the country would have become ungovernable on all levels, including its health care.

It is not Covid-19 that is destroying this country. It is government’s totally incompetent handling of this.

I will not repeat what I have said and written a dozen times before, but unless we take a realistic and pragmatic approach by accepting the reality of this virus, we will destroy this country totally. We cannot continue with the current non sustainable lock down strategy. If a lock down is justified for the current status and level of infections, it will just be the case more and more, and if the lock down is partially lifted, you can bet your life it will be a matter of time before government clamps (locks) down on us again when the numbers escalate, as it will of course. Their eyes need to be opened regarding the absurdity of their strategy. On top of this, it is my opinion that we could attain 90% efficiency with 10% of the cost. A lock down is an extreme measure to avoid an out of control steepening in the curve. We followed other countries far more advanced in their “curve” like sheep by also jumping on the lock down band wagon right in the beginning of our curve. Latest figures revealed 241 people in hospital in SA and 35 in ICU. Millions hungry and desperate, appearing nowhere in the statistics. But the whole country is in lock down! Zero cases in Plett where I live, but the whole town is in lock down! Thousands hungry and desperate, but appearing nowhere on the statistics. This is ridiculous! Thousands of people are being fed daily by good Samaritans, rescuing the government and the country from imploding. The only people who can possibly be supporting this are those who get their fat salaries paid by government each month and who feels a complete zero (I have a better term for this) for the plight of their fellow man. This is despicable.

We must accept Covid-19 is here and each one must LIVE prudently and responsibly as part of a semi-normal life as he or she deems fit. We have exhausted the extreme measure “luxury” of a lock down at a time when it was not needed at all. Time is up for it. 

We are bleeding to death. Do we just accept this?

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot unlearn the lies they have been taught to believe.

Simon van Deventer

21 April 2020

HEARTLESS GOVERNANCE

HEARTLESS GOVERNANCE

I have yet to see a suffering and hungry person in favour of the lock down. I also wonder how many infected people are in favour of the lock down, because they have the virus anyway and would likely like to see their families earn a living. I think it is fair to say the desperate people in this country at the moment forms the absolute vast majority. 

Yet it is an absolute minority making the choices for them, saying to them “No no, you are not that hungry. We are really concerned about you and our people’s health and safety and are acting in your own interest, because you do not know yourself what is good for you. Trust us, we know better. We want you to stay at home and “byt vas”. We are worried that you may get sick. Should you disagree and do not obey, we will have to arrest you though.

Yes, we know that there will likely also not be a job for you to go back to, but trust us, we are all in this together and the lock down is in your best interest. We need to flatten the curve. You can apply for UIF. Yes, they may take quite a few months to catch up with the overload of applications, but we are sure you are reasonable and will understand. Just be patient and bear with us please, as we have a very difficult job at the moment. In spite of working very hard, we have decided to sacrifice a third of our salaries for the next few months, that is about R85000 for me as the state president per month. This amount will go into a relief fund which will be used to buy food for the mmmh, say about 45 million destitude people like you. Surely this shows my commitment to you as my people who voted for me and put your trust in me. But again I must point out the the logistics with distribution is a bit clogged up and not always so easy to get to the people.

Something’s got to give. This is not sustainable. People should not be governed by wealthy heartless individuals who show no sign of connectedness with life in the townships and on the ground.

And yes, I do understand about figures, statistics, maths and logarithmic curves. I studied that. Therefor I know that deferring the curve by locking down was the most fatal mistake we could possibly make, especially because it is even more effective than the experts like Prof Karim expected. We are prolonging the inevitable onset of the virus. Yes, granted we needed some time to prepare, but could have slowed the spread with a media campaign on preventative measures.  Covid-19 will come of course. We cannot prevent that. And that is the point. A lockdown had to be kept back until the virus was much more wide spread. Then a lock down would have flattened the curve. We cannot afford a longer lock down than three weeks, four at the very most if critically needed. Now we have created massive poverty by having this lock down before the virus has properly spread.  When the time comes that we may need a lock down, we will not be able to afford it, and if the government declares it, the masses will ignore it because they will have no other choice.

Simon van Deventer

18 April 2020

THE ILLUSION CREATED BY IMMEASURABILITY

THE ILLUSION CREATED BY IMMEASURABILITY

Often when I drive behind a truck (with a notice: “No driving in the yellow lane”) driving in the middle of the road with an endless queue of cars behind it, I wonder by myself: How many more accidents are there because people get frustrated and impatient with a slow moving truck obstructing the road by not pulling off into the yellow lane, and then overtaking causing a head to head accident? Not pulling off into the yellow lane probably causes between fifty and a hundred more accidents I would guess, but it’s not measurable. When the police gets on the scene of a head to head accident they would not know that a truck not pulling off was actually the trigger leading to the accident, but if the truck driving in the yellow lane collided with a stationary vehicle, the cause would be obvious and thus become a statistic. That is the reason why we see that notice on the back of many trucks.

Statistics require measurability. Arguments need (does it?) statistics. Science needs measurability. What cannot be measured may be much more important than what can be measured. How does one measure love? So is love meaningless because it cannot be measured? How does one measure happiness, joy, sadness, pain, hunger? Are we living in a world where those things don’t matter because they cannot be measured? Do they play no part in decision making? Have we really gone that far down the road where these things don’t count anymore because they cannot be measured? In what kind of world are we living?

In the Covid-19 battle we hear everyday that decisions must be based on scientific data. So the welfare of our people, or the lack of it, hardships and hunger does not even come into play when making decisions about the lockdown because it cannot be measured. Have we then become a total heartless society? The internet is full of arguments about the merits of the lock down ito saving lives (actually deferring deaths) vs people dying of hunger because of the impact on the economy. The point is a life only becomes a statistic, and thus a point of argument when it ends, when the person dies. Death is only the point at which consciousness changes. What is far more important here on earth than death, is life, the quality of life, things like freedom, contentment, happiness, joy, having adequate  nutrition, feeling supported and of course love.

In a way, it is the same with ourselves. Death is a great teacher, but we only allow it in as a teacher when we are on our death bed. Only then we become aware of what was actually important in our lives. Only then do we get proper perspective. But then it is too late to reap any benefit from the lesson. When will we learn to get proper perspective in time so we can enjoy the fruits of the lessons from our death bed?

Is it possible that our president and his advisors really are so blind, so removed, so cold hearted, that they cannot feel the anxiety, desperation and hunger of the poor people of this country in their hearts and stomachs because it has not become a statistic yet?  Is it possible? 

Simon van Deventer 17 April 2020

The cost of disconnection and the price of fear

14 April 2020

THE COST OF DISCONNECTION and THE PRICE OF FEAR

Dear Mr President,

This is my third letter to you. I will just think aloud in this letter. Because chances that you, or any person in authority, will read it is probably close to zero. This is ironically also in a sense what this letter encapsulates. You have lost touch with what is happening on the ground. Even though this letter, like the previous two, is emailed to you and all your lieutenants,  the letter probably won’t reach you, just as the feeling of millions of empty stomachs won’t reach you either, nor will you feel the desperation of millions who voted for you. But I have to write this letter to you.

I have always respected you as an honourable person and leader who has the interest of the country largely at heart. I have certainly not always agreed with your decisions, but that is normal and I also knew and appreciated that there were lots of factors, issues and influences that I had no proper knowledge of. Problem is, your declaration of this archaic and inhumane lock down and especially your extension, has changed everything for me, and probably also for your voters who are not sitting pretty in secure government jobs with fat pay cheques every month. 

Last night I watched the presentation of mainly your health minister and prof Karim on TV. It certainly promoted respect for these two persons. Prof Karim certainly came forth as a very knowledgeable professional who is very much on top of this Covid-19 crisis, interpreting the figures with intelligence and also wisdom. But his recommendation that should the figures be above 90 new cases per day for the next few days, which it is now, then the lock down should be extended, speaks of a disconnection with what is happening on the ground. Yes sure, that may technically be the thing to do to flatten the so called curve. 

Problem is Mr President, we have only deferred the curve by shutting this country down when we should have advised people to live on the bare minimum and try to keep some money back for a possible worst case scenario. From government’s side we could do all we have done now ito preparing health services etc for a surge in sick people. Just as perspective I add here that according to the latest SA statistics on average 54 people die per day of influenza and pneumonia. Today, 14 April 27 people in total have died with Covid-19. How many of them might have died from flu anyway? But we have shut down the whole economy for this! Yes of course the numbers will increase, but that will happen anyway. We should have kept our recourses in reserve to flatten the curve, not to defer it. 

(Note for perspective: those people dying actually say for example from flu as they would likely have done before, but now being Covid-19 positive, are now all recorded as dying from Covid-19, not with it. On the other hand, not one person dying with/from AIDS, are recorded as such, but from flu or whatever the condition might have been. This is an interesting inconsistency and food for thought as the policies applied are totally opposite. It is as if the policy is to dramatise the effect and numbers of Covid-19 to the maximum and downplay HIV/AIDS to the minimum.)

Prof Karim has said himself that we will not be able to escape this virus, that when we lift the lock down, the numbers will increase again. We can thus lock ourselves down, but we cannot lock ourselves out. We will some time or another have to face this virus with a practical, livable and sustainable strategy. As I predicted (and we are not even at the end of the first three week period), we are seeing the first demonstrations of hungry and desperate people. 

Locking down the economy has been a very very expensive mistake, extending it was a fatal one. We desperately needed wages to be earned while our numbers were down. The “luxury” of a lock down was to be kept as an absolute emergency measure. 

Townships, where most of our people reside, cannot be locked down in practical or effective terms anyway. People living in townships are generally of a younger age looking for jobs in the cities and are thus at lower risk of showing serious symptoms than the older generation who tend to live more in their traditional rural areas.

It is my opinion that we could get around 80 or 90% of the efficiency of the current lock down ito slowing down the transfer rate of infection by imposing carefully considered laws ito economic and social cost vs benefits.

Africa and also South Africa’s population is much younger than that of Europe. Our children and working people under 60 comprise 90% of our population. Applying current available statistics regarding death rates for the different age groups with (from leaves a lot open to guesswork, though all reports are reported from) Covid-19, the likely deaths from this group amounts to a quarter of the total probable deaths. Why on earth then are we shutting down the whole economy, which is an unsustainable strategy anyway if we could focus our protection efforts on the elderly rather and keep those supporting them earning an income?

This brings me to another matter. Those in power and making the decisions are generally of an age group who are most at risk. I say no more as I do not like the implications of this and thus do not wish to speculate on this. I am not of a cynical or even skeptical mind and inclined to always see the best in others. It is  worth mentioning though as their decisions are plainly incomprehensible in the light of the obvious consequences.

Which brings me to the cost of disconnection and the price of fear. Fear causes one to act irrationally.  An initial knee jerk reaction instituting a lock down with the kind of archaic irrational laws could possibly be understood and excused as an initial measure to limit a possible and unknown catastrophe, but then maintaining it and even extending it! This does not only point to fear but also to disconnection, disconnection to ordinary people, especially to the people who make up the largest portion of the population. Indications and estimates point to about three million jobs lost as a direct consequence of the lock down and particularly its extension. Mr president, do you have any idea what this spells for this country? How can one ever justify making a decision that have this type of implication. How many deaths of elderly people does one need to defer in order to justify and balance the unspeakable hardship that your decision is bringing to so many people? I cannot even imagine that anyone sitting on millions, having a secure income each month (taking note of your one third sacrifice in salary, thank you) can be so removed from his people as to make a decision with these ramifications. No one except you and your high ranking government officials protected by security guards  will be safe anymore, as good citizens turn to criminal behaviour and criminals having a field day as law and order breaks down totally.

Do not for a minute tell me that you thought the UIF would put food on the table for the jobless masses. Government departments are notorious for their inefficiency and slow service. Applications made in January have met with no response, irrespective of the amount of follow ups. It will take a very long time for all the applications to be processed. And what about the massive informal sector? What is your response to a foodless person because of your shut down Mr President? Just be patient for a few weeks, or months, or years?

I once read: “If an honest man realises he is being taken, he will either cease being taken, or he will cease being honest”.

Because the hardship and hunger cannot be readily measured, it disappears on the political score board. It simply does not count, or it is a vague factor that may be considered.  Currently, it is like you have agreed to a deal to torture 90% of the population unnecessarily in order to buy a bit of time for some of the sick and elderly. I beg of you, for the sake of the lesser privileged, to let compassion for the masses and the overall good of everyone, start directing your decisions. Yes Mr President, every life is sacred for me too, but so is the gift and quality of living also. If we take the lid off the economy and focus our energy on the sick and elderly I think we can protect them much better than currently. 

Death is part of life and of course inevitable for each and everyone of us. We should not allow fear of death to make life unbearable and even unlivable for the rest. Over the last years the emphasis on global safety and security has increased more and more. “Safety first” has become a global slogan. I want to put a plea out there, a plea for “LIFE FIRST”. We have become so conscious of risks that we have compromised and throttled the quality of our lives more and more. We cannot allow ourselves to sacrifice the gift and wonder of life at the altar of deferring death at all cost. Death holds the power of being a recordable statistic. This gives it a supreme status above a compromised life quality, because the latter is much harder or not possible to quantify. Additionally, statistics about people dying from hunger or living under the breadline has lost its impact as it has become part of the “normal”. Death statistics are used by and against politicians, so this is what their focus is on. Government should realise that this is only one piece of a very much bigger puzzle. Last year 5000 kids died in SA of malnutrition, 5 million globally.  So I ask, is the death of a person with (not necessarily from) Covid-19 a more special death, worth many other “normal” deaths, like from hunger of malnutrition, deaths we have become used to? Does it score more points on the political scoreboard because the Covid-19 is where all the focus and media coverage is currently? Do you have any idea what these figures of people dying from malnutrition will become under the current scenario? And let us not also fall here in the trap referred to above of only talking about deaths instead of lives. The slogan has already started in the townships; “Covid will not kill us, hunger will.” 

I urge you once again to show strong leadership by not following the herd and just doing what most other countries did, by acknowledging that this action is inhumane and not cost effective for South Africa.  Other countries with stronger economies have generally a much lighter form of a lock down with the emphasis on maintaining as much economic activity as possible and making it as least unpleasant for its citizens. SA, who can afford it the least, has the hardest lock down with many malicious rules having no positive purpose at all.

Again my suggested action in broad terms:

– Lift this irrational, draconian and inhumane lock down immediately, while you still have the time. The choice is yours, either you lift them or the people will do it for you. No army or police force will be able to prevent it. The price will be total and irreversible chaos.

– You have had many submissions and inputs regarding selective and cost effective measures to balance restraining the spread of the virus and the economic and socio-economic measures. Implement them. Again I say we can have 90% effect with 10% cost.

– Emphasize social distancing, good personal hygiene etc. Ironically the poverty, malnutrition and stress your indiscriminate lock down is causing makes for compromised immune systems and poor health which of course is a fertile ground for the virus. 

– Abolish BEE, restrictive labour legislation and other draconian bureaucracy and red tape in order to help the economy get going. Our situation is critical and cannot afford these cumbersome and outdated ideologies anymore.

One cannot negotiate one’s way out of the consequences of bad choices one makes. The current strategy of lock down could only be justified if we could contain and eradicate this virus within a few weeks. It is commonly accepted that this is not possible. Thus, the longer we keep the spread of this virus at an unrealistic low level, the longer it will be with us before we reach “herd immunity”.  Some or other time we will have to face the bull and take it by the horns. The complete and archaic lock down was a bad choice for South Africa Mr president.

Please Mr President, do not let ego of maintaining the course of an earlier decision stand in your way of saving our country. We are on a knife edge and our time is very very little. We do not have 14 days, we do not have a week, we have NO time. Act now!

I thank you.

Simon van Deventer

THE COST OF SAVING LIVES AT ALL COST

                                                                                    10 April 2020                        

DEAR MR PRESIDENT…                                                                    

Covid-19

THE COST OF SAVING LIVES AT ALL COST

I have written an open letter to you dated 5 April urging you to lift the lock down with immediate effect. Last night you have extended it by two weeks, for now…

Please allow me to summarize the essence of my letter:

  • By imposing the initial three week lock down, we have taken the very maximum doses of medicine (with extreme side effects), only intended for when the symptoms are much more serious. We have emptied our ammunition before the enemy got properly in range.
  • Obviously the reasoning is to get a hold on it and limit the numbers asap and to so call, “flatten the curve”. Problem is, we are not flattening it, we are deferring it, and when the time comes that we need to flatten it, we will have no means left to do it. We must accept that we cannot legislate Covid-19 out of existence. Yes, it may have a slight breaking effect, but the cost of an unsophisticated broad based lock down vs its effectiveness in South Africa, makes it a suicidal option we should not even contemplate. As we are in the initial phase the numbers will keep growing for a few months to come still, whether we are in lockdown or not.  If the infection rate is what you use as justification and extension of lock downs, then it follows that as the numbers grow, not only from the spread of the virus, but also and likely moreso from the increase in the tests being done, the case to extend the lock down every time we near the end of it, will be stronger than the previous time. I ask you Mr President, acting on this basis and against this background, what will provide you with justification for ending the lockdown? The only possible answer is social and public upheaval on an unprecedented scale born out of poverty and hunger that will make the country ungovernable and laws ineffective anyway. Following your current strategy is clearly unsustainable and will lead to catastrophe. 
  • Surely you agree that we can never afford this. The country will be (and is) dumped into a downward spiral leading to anarchy that few of us can at this stage contemplate. Unemployment as a result of business closures will reach unprecedented levels against which our UIF fund will be helpless. No law enforcement will be able to contain the lawlessness, violence and anarchy which will follow. The country will be destroyed. It will lead to a self induced depression. We could possibly survive a lock down of three weeks, although with disastrous consequences, from which we would take years to recover, but five weeks, or more Mr President, we will not survive. By the time it becomes evident that the above is not a dramatizing of events to unfold, it will be too late to do anything about it. The country would have become a lawless society driven by hungry people who had to become criminals in order to feed themselves.
  • Yes, your actions are in line with international practice, although much more draconian (with no extra effectiveness). And it seems like the right thing to do as numbers seem to grow relatively slowly. By acting in line with the most stringent measures of the international community involves little or no risk on your part in terms of acting responsibly. Fear has united the country against the common enemy and ruthless action seems to be the safe route to take.
  • Problem is we cannot afford to take this “safe” route. By choosing this route we are guaranteeing a scenario of anarchy on an unprecedented scale as referred to above. The situation calls for strong leadership and a willingness to stick out government’s neck and act appropriately and responsibly to a situation which calls for action according to what is effective and what we can afford, not according to how other governments reacted. We must acknowledge that the vast majority of our people has no reserves and that we as a country do not have the luxury of finances and stimulation packages that the developed world has. Economists calculate our rescue package at 0,1% of GDP compared to the 7,5% of the developed world. Because we barely have more to offer, we cannot apply the same policies. And on top of this our lock down and thus economic consequences are much more harsh than most (or all?) other countries.
  • I am not advocating Covid-19 is not a serious problem deserving out of the ordinary measures, but we need to ensure we have proper perspective and a proper understanding of what we are dealing with. As an example, according to the Italian Health Institute the average age of Italians who died withthe Covid-19 virus is 82. Almost half of them had at least three serious medical preconditions. We need to analyze figures carefully in order to make sensible decisions.
  • Our poor people live shoulder to shoulder in townships, where lock down has almost no effect or benefit other than destroying the livelihood of millions. The rules of the lock down are draconian and very poor from an efficiency vs disruption of life and economic cost point of view. The broad rough brush is destroying everything in its way under the cover of fighting the enemy, showing no respect for even basic but important rights in life, many of which have an absolute zero effect on containing the virus. It smells of a militaristic power play and undermines goodwill that is so desperately needed in our country. The situation could be managed with almost the same result with a fraction of the cost.
  • Every life is surely sacred and precious, but we need to accept death, otherwise we will make life unbearable. How much of life of the whole are we prepared to sacrifice in our bid to defer death at all costs, even for the imminent? Is the deferment of death for a relative few of the people specifically infected by Covid-19, the ultimate triumph, worthy of the sacrifice by millions of the most basic human right of having adequate nutrition and shelter, which will result in their death anyway, either directly from starvation or indirectly from TB, flue or whatever, because of a compromised immune system? To add perspective, according to Lancet Laboratories the death rate for under sixties due to Covid-19 is 0,32%. What are we doing?!  How can we ever justify the catastrophe that will surely follow this lockdown. We are throttling the country to death.

Suggested Action:

  • Lift the lock down with immediate effect.
  • Emphasize that this should not be interpreted as a relaxation of our fight against the virus, but as an effort to save the country and its people from economic and social anarchy.
  • Focus on guidance
  • Maintain the effort via the media and other resources to promote precautionary measures like physical distancing, wearing masks etc and healthy living (going for walks, exercising etc). Focus on protecting the elderly and the ill.
  • Temporary laws can be considered regarding the maximum amount of people in a group etc, but certainly allowing a family to be together outdoors. (If they are together indoors anyway, why the heck not allow them outdoors??)
  • Do the maximum to help individuals and businesses in order to save jobs and the economy.

Generally laws should be specific, minimising disruption while maximising efficiency, the focus being on cost vs benefit, being the opposite of how it is now. The excuse/cover for this was the urgency of the situation. This excuse is not valid anymore. We had time to refine our shock reaction, instead we roughened up on it. Very disappointing.

Failure to lift the lockdown within the next week will leave us with nothing to save.

Thanking you.

Simon van Deventer

captivated@beachshack.co.za

Dear Mr President

DEAR MR PRESIDENT…

My essence is not to criticize, we all do our best under the circumstances and with the knowledge and information to our disposal, but in order to make good and wise decisions we need to consider proper information, proper interpretation of that information and then quality inputs on this information.  Then we need to consider all possible options and weigh up the implications carefully.

Please allow me to quote a few words of wisdom, because this is really what we need in this day:

“It is not the things we don’t know that really hurt us. It is the things we know for sure, but that is not so, that is really damaging to us.”

“All great discoveries have been made from a willingness, and ability, not to be right.”

“We routinely disqualify testimony that would plead for extenuation. That is, we are so persuaded of the rightness of our judgement as to invalidate evidence that does not confirm us in it. Nothing that deserves to be called truth can ever be arrived at by such means.” Marlynne Robinson; “The death of Adam”.

I ask of you to consider the following:

You have declared a state of lock down for three weeks. That means South Africa is taking the maximum dosage of medicine more or less immediately we become aware of the symptoms. This dosage has extreme side effects in terms of the economy and people’s lives. When the three weeks have passed, the statistics with regard to infections, deaths etc will be much more compelling to make us take another dose of the medicine, and at the end of another lock down even more so, and so on and so on. This is not sustainable, not even in the very short term. This is like shooting out all your ammunition before the enemy is properly in range. This surely kept the enemy from advancing yes, but they are still there in full strength. All we did was to delay the conflict but we depleted ourselves from any means to defend ourselves.

The dosage we have taken is already more than we as South Africa could afford. Yes, of course it seems to have been the proper thing to have done. It is in line with international handling of the situation and it seems commendable that we have acted swiftly and decisively.  Infections are really growing very slowly compared to some other countries. (Problem is the more we want to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread, the longer this virus will stay with us. More about this later.) To rule and govern along the lines of the international community involves very little or no risk on the part of the decision makers. It does not leave you open for criticism. No one can point a finger. It is indicative of prudence and responsible governance. 

Problem is we cannot afford to take this “safe” route. By choosing this route we are guaranteeing us a scenario of anarchy on an unprecedented scale. The situation calls for a willingness to stick out government’s neck and act appropriately to a situation which calls for action according to what we can afford, not according to how other governments reacted. We must acknowledge that we do not have the luxury of finances and stimulation packages that the developed world has. More of this later.

I am not advocating that Covid-19 is not a serious problem, although there is factual scientific and medical evidence pointing to a very skewed picture being portrayed because essentially all people dying with the virus are reported as dying from the virus. And the reported cases stems only from people being tested. This is obviously a fraction of people actually being infected as about 80% of infected people shows hardly any or no symptoms. Statistics of  normal flu casualties in previous years surely also need to be taken into account in order to form a true picture of the role that the Covid-19 virus is playing in the numbers. Not doing this does not skew the situation somewhat but skews it totally. This is not my opinion, it is a factual statement and it is not because statistics are being manipulated but because the denominator indicating the actual amount of infections is unknown and can practically not be determined.  Most medical sources agree that for the above reasons the death rate from the virus  at about 2% (some latest figures indicate 1,4%)  may be grossly overestimated. No one knows how many infections there actually are. The latest average statistics on age of deaths in Italy that I saw was 82, of which 75% suffered from hypertension, 35% from diabetes, 33% from cardiac ischemia, 24% from atrial fibrillation, 18% from low renal function, etc etc.  Nearly half of the casualties  suffered from three or more of these conditions.  It is the elderly, really above 80 years old according to statistics and the sick or those with compromised immune systems who are at risk and should be protected.

Many very highly respected epidemiologists are strongly of the opinion that we (the world) are handling it in totally the wrong way, that we are prolonging this unnecessarily, however well meant our intentions are.

I quote from the World Economic Forum: “At some point, we will return to and build our daily routines, with the new addition of the mental health crisis caused by weeks of fear, isolation and anxiety, much of which could have been avoided by an accurate and clear definition of the denominator.” (This of course refers to the actual amount of people infected so we could have a true perspective.) In staying on our current track, this though will be the least of our problems to contend with in South Africa.

Can you imagine the nightmare of realising afterwards that we paid this price unnecessarily because we did not have a proper perspective? Yes, we will be able to say, but many others did the same. We only did what we thought to be best.  Yes, indeed so, but that will not save us from the anarchy that we will have to contend with.

But let us be ultra conservative and ignore the above scenario for now. Let us assume the situation is as serious as it is being portrayed, or even more serious. So we do indeed need to react strongly and decisively. My plea is that we cannot afford this doses  of medicine that we are taking. Sure I understand the merits of harnessing the spread as much as possible and as effectively as possible, especially regarding the sick and elderly, but the medicine we are taking now in the doses that we are taking it will destroy almost all of us. The problem is that even if we are very effective in our management of the situation, this virus will probably be with us for many months to come. Actually the more effective we are, the longer it will be with us. At the moment we are not flattening the curve, we are deferring it. And when the time comes to flatten it, we will not be able to do anything about it. The longer we are in lock down mode, the longer the virus will obviously take to run its course. A thought to ponder…

Let us assume that in spite of the damage in terms of bankruptcies and the resultant loss of many many thousands of jobs, we survive the current lock down from a socio economic point of view. Then I humbly ask you, what happens after the three weeks have ended? Yes, the common justification is: “We need to flatten the curve”. But then infections will be higher, so the need for a lock down is even more. Surely you agree we cannot afford an extension? Lost jobs result in hungry stomachs, in desperation, in making criminals out of people who are not. We have enough criminals in this country, we cannot afford to add to them because people do not have a choice.

UIF may help somewhat and the government is surely doing its best by working on schemes to alleviate the situation on the ground, but waiting for a payout from UIF (that is inundated with applications) does not buy food on the table. According to economists The developed world is injecting stimulus packages into their economies equal to 7,5% of GDP. The value of our proposed stimulus packages are calculated at 0,1%. I am not criticizing this, because we do not have more to our disposal. I am pleading to you to become aware of where we are heading. Staying on our current track, we will become totally helpless in doing anything when we realise our mistake. We have very very little time.

Mr President, we need action NOW. We need to vomit out some of this overdose we took while we can. We need a balanced and responsible approach. We need to dissect measures by breaking them up into specifics and  weighing the cost (all aspects) up against the expected effect. The response of taking out the big paint brush of a total lock down and painting everywhere and everything in one colour was surely and even understandably born out of a global hysteria this pandemic caused. 

Again, we cannot afford this. At the time of writing this, we have not even passed the halfway mark of the lock down. I plead with you to consider for instance the lifting of this lock down in rural towns and areas where it seems to be clear. Every job saved means some food on a table somewhere.  Let the gardener come work in the garden while the property owner can still afford him and before his house is repossessed.  Open the economic taps to a degree so that some house owners can keep their houses and so the gardener can keep his job. 

I live in a town where fortunately no cases have been reported. Looking at the people and the town though, one gets the impression the virus lurks around every corner and in every pocket of air. And that may be fine and good to behave like that until we know more about this. I am not advocating irresponsibility. I am advocating for the government to lift the lock down in these towns and areas as a matter of  the utmost urgency and focus its energy on stressing the importance of responsible living under “lock down free” conditions. The fear and crisis that this virus has caused provides a valuable opportunity for the country and its people to unite in showing responsibility. The cost of enforcing responsible behaviour by law enforcement is extremely high and very inefficient. It is this price we cannot afford and of course I am not referring to the cost of enforcement. I am talking about the indiscreet, rough, painting everything with the lock down brush approach.

We have now had breathing space (sorry, not space, I mean time), time to assess. As an interim measure, regulate minimum space (why do we call it social distancing and not physical distancing?), maximum number of people gathering, unless it is a family of course, the wearing of masks by employees, or people in taxi or bus, or in any forced close proximity situation, etc etc. But please Mr President, let us get the wheels of the economy start turning before they fall off completely.  Protect the elderly and sick, but relax the lock down with immediate effect. We are bleeding to death.

The cost of this lock down is unaffordable, but more so, unnecessary. We can have virtually the same effect ito slowing the spread of the virus, but with a fraction of the cost. Maintaining the current “theme” of  the plan necessarily implies  an extension of the lock down. The bankruptcies and liquidations, unemployment, social unrest, uncontrollable crime etc etc that will result from this, will send this country into a state of anarchy that will bring unbearable hardships to our people. I truly believe that this scenario will be much worse than the worst effects of Covid-19, even in terms of lives lost due to hunger, poverty and a total lawless society. The real risk here is that by the time one realises that the above was not dramatising a socio economic scenario, we may be on a unstoppable, even unbrakeble run away train to anarchy.

Yes, you may argue that we may get that run away train scenario with the Covid-19 virus if not managed properly and strictly. I agree that we must keep that absolutely in mind and have written the above and made my suggestions on that basis. We have two fires here to manage. The danger is we focus too much on the one and think we will be able to control the other when we have the first one under control. There is also a third fire lurking, fear or mass hysteria. Last night on the news I heard of the infection rate in SA “surging ahead”, but without the actual increase being mentioned. The facts were that it went from 1505 cases on Friday to 1585 cases today, which is Sunday. Is this correct, responsible, true reporting? It is widely known and accepted that a good immune system is the best defense against the virus. An enormous energy of fear and stress is currently downloaded onto our people, the lock down situation being one of the main contributors, along with the media as mentioned. This is promoting a higher than necessary casualty rate among infected people.

Every life is surely sacred and precious, but we need to accept death, otherwise we will make life unbearable. How much of life of the whole are we prepared to sacrifice in our bid to defer death at all costs, even for the imminent? Is the deferment of death for a relative few of the people specifically infected by Covid-19, the ultimate triumph, worthy of the sacrifice by millions of the most basic human right of having adequate nutrition and shelter, which will result in their death anyway, either directly from starvation or indirectly from TB, flue or whatever, because of a compromised immune system? Minimising deaths does  not just mean those that we can identify and measure.

I thank you.

Simon van Deventer

captivated@beachshack.co.za

Plettenberg Bay

5 April 2020