Dear President Ramaphosa, ‘Please could you stop killing poor black people? Please could you end lockdown and allow them to return to work, so they can buy food and avoid starvation?’
Our ANC masters tell us about the ‘robust mathematical models’ they used to predict the number of deaths from Covid-19 (such models are usually as robust as soap bubbles, as Prof Neil Ferguson has so spectacularly demonstrated in the UK). Where was their robust mathematical model to predict the number of poor black people that lockdown would kill?
There wasn’t one. Poor black people were politically expendable. In a country with as much poverty, unemployment, bad housing and bad sanitation as South Africa, it should have been obvious that shutting down the economy would kill vulnerable people – which in South Africa means poor black people – by starvation itself and all the myriad illness caused by brutal poverty. Millions of poor black people are living on the edge of existence. A small nudge will push them over; lockdown gives them a mighty shove. None of this mattered to the National Coronavirus Command Council. Not once did I hear the President mentioning these facts.
Let me denounce a common fallacy. The central argument about lockdown or no lockdown is not ‘lives versus livelihoods’. It is about ‘lives versus lives’. Covid-19 kills. Lockdown kills. But lockdown kills far more.
Based on facts, not imaginings
The best possible calculation shows that lockdown will cause at least 29 times as much loss of life as Covid-19 would have without lockdown. This is from a proper model, based on facts not imaginings, drawn from the hard data of mortality and life-expectancy, analysed by the professional experts in the statistics of death, actuaries. A consortium calling itself ‘Pandemic-Data Analysis’, consisting of four actuaries, an economist and a doctor, drew up this model, which was checked by lawyers and mathematicians. They used figures from the Treasury for their calculation on poverty and mortality. They sent a letter to President Ramaphosa, explaining the model. The letter was headed ‘Lockdown is a humanitarian disaster to dwarf Covid-19’. They called for an end to the lockdown, protection of the old, allowing children to return to school and the economy to be restarted. The Dear Leader seems to have ignored it completely.
The actuaries used the telling measure ‘Years of Life Lost’ (YOLLs). This is the difference in years between the age at which you died and life expectancy at that age. When lockdown kills a 90-year-old man, the YOLLs are fewer than if it kills a 20-year-old man. A highly significant fact about Covid-19, perhaps the most significant fact, is that it kills very few young people. By far its most victims come from people over 70. For children and young adults, Covid-19 is milder than the flu. For old people, it is worse.
At first, lockdown looked like innocent stupidity. Its continuation in the teeth of all the evidence looks like malevolent stupidity. Lockdown had only one possible merit and this was to ‘flatten the curve’, which means to make the epidemic last longer but with fewer people afflicted at any one time so that the health services would not be overrun.
Dying in greater numbers
Nobody pretended that lockdown would reduce the total number of people infected. But most reports from around the world show that, far from being overrun with Covid-19 patients, hospitals are standing empty. People needing treatment for other deadly illness are being turned away, and therefore dying in greater numbers. In SA, TB patients are not going to hospitals, and therefore dying in greater numbers. It doesn’t look as if lockdown will save a single life from Covid-19 in the long run but it certainly will kill a multitude from a far more deadly foe: poverty.
On the radio I heard some spokesman from the EFF – I think the one with the Grace Mugabe PhD – saying that for the sake of black workers we must not end lockdown, as the DA, white racists, monopoly capitalists etc are asking. The EFF is suggesting that poor black people are begging the government not to allow them to return to work. That poor black hairdresser is pleading with the President, ‘Please Dear Leader, do not allow me to work. Do not allow me to earn a living. Do not allow me to eat.’
Any naïve belief that the ANC initiated its lockdown only for benevolent reasons has evaporated. Just read through Ramaphosa’s latest speech and then look at the truth about Covid-19 now. They are miles apart. The driving motives of the ANC since the 1970s have been not for freedom and prosperity but for power and control, which it sought to gain by fear (and did, with total success).
Power, control and fear now seem the ANC’s motives for continuing the ruinous lockdown. ‘Stamping the authority of the state’ – meaning the ANC – takes precedence over everything else, including the lives of poor black people.
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR