The swirling zeitgeist of excuses, postponements, delays, denials and ‘I didn’t know’s from the top of the greasy political pole these past weeks came close to infecting me.

I was on the point of asking my husband to write a sick note to the editor, to win a week’s grace in writing this column, but I feared he would get carried away describing what was wrong with me, going way beyond the brief to enunciate many things wrong with me that he may have picked up over 30 years of cohabitation.

Perhaps I could have tried penning a note myself. I could have referred to a “traumatic past injury” or made some passing reference to a mysterious “poisoning”. Scribbled an indecipherable signature.

Instead I put on my big girl panties (you will have to watch the home grown crime doccie series Devilsdorp on Showmax to understand this reference but it will be well worth it), sat down and wrote this.  

Mother would be proud – don’t lie or cheat, or steal (or loot presumably) and deliver on your promises, don’t put off until tomorrow what needs doing today, treat people as you would be treated. (Our parents were really just early versions of Jordan B. Peterson).

Surely even our miscreant political leaders must have been at the receiving end of these parental injunctions and homilies at some formative time? I wonder why none of it stuck.

We’ve put real life and the democratic process on hold for over 500 (and counting) days so far, and renewed the State of Disaster 17 times. The ANC, the IEC and assorted allied minnows are out to postpone the local government elections, even if it means making precedent-setting changes to the constitution. Zuma’s physical, live (as requested by the geriatric jailbird himself) appearance in court was postponed to September because of his alleged ill health, another excuse he has relied on before, and which we know has been inordinately successful for others of his ilk.

(Strange – isn’t it? – how medical information for the elite we support with our money seems particularly unforthcoming and sacrosanct, while the younger set let it all hang out on social media if they happen to have mental health problems or challenges, are contemplating gender reassignment, or are ‘suffering‘ menstrual pains.).

My gloominess can clearly be linked to this past week’s events.

First the damaging explosion at Eskom’s newly completed Medupi plant, raising questions around the workers in charge of this mind-numbingly expensive equipment, and conjuring disquieting images of clones of Homer Simpson  ̶  the iconic worst power-plant worker in the world.

Then there was the amazing sight of Cyril Ramaphosa taking the once-in-a-lifetime spin opportunity granted to him by the Zondo Commission. The President sitting in front of the judge, and softly, oh so reasonably, excusing his failure to speak out about state capture while serving under Jacob Zuma.

According to him, he didn’t know it was happening, and when he did realize what was going on, (his Damascene moment apparently came with the firing of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister), he opted to play a long game and work from the inside.

He decided it would be best if he were President before he tackled state capture.

Best for him or for us? It doesn’t seem as though the lumpen proletariat, tax payers, law abiding citizens or dependent poor were much in his mind as he calculated his way through his options.

To believe Ramaphosa didn’t know what was going on for many of the Zuma years, you would also have to believe him to be deaf, blind and dumb. He obviously isn’t. I can only conclude he was lying, however nicely he did it.

Truth is: Ramaphosa let his long game go on too long, he left it all too late. The damage done before he acted against corruption is deep. It was aided and abetted by cadre deployment. Ramaphosa himself was in charge of the ANC deployment committee.

Anyone still looking to him to diverge from ANC official policies and ideology or clean out the rats’ nest of ANC deployees in government is sadly deluded, needs to take a pill and to lie down. I’ll be happy to write a sick note if required.

We are in trouble as a country and an economy. Even as SARS succeeds in winkling out more tax than expected into the coveted coffers, the tax base is eroding.

The proposed SARS “exit levy” on pensions which may halt this has also put the kibosh on my vague thoughts of ‘relocating’ if it all goes pear-shaped. Dreams of a balmy retirement in Mauritius – even if only as a backyard tenant in the  luxury resort residence of Magnus Heystek or some other canny, financial advisor, trust fund kid, or former CEO  ̶  are clearly going to be beyond my pathetic reach.

So there I am in the pharmacy queue (quite the most social event some of us have attended these past few 18 months) to pick up pills that will help me sleep easier despite all my middle class angst. I pass the time reading the new notices concerning the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) on the sides of the herding corridor shepherding us towards the row of pharmacists.

A man in front of me has just received his medication. Before he turns to leave the counter, he remembers he also has to collect some medication his step-daughter ordered.

He spells out her name. He is asked for more details – her date of birth, and address. He gives them. The pharmacist informs him that POPIA now requires that he needs a signed permission form if he wishes to collect medication for another person. 

But it’s only a small parcel the man pleads: ‘It’s just her birth control pills.’

Naturally, all of this exchange involving Ms XXXX’s personal information has been followed and heard by everyone in the queue. We are obliged to speak loudly and clearly to be understood through our masks and screens these days.

I couldn’t resist a smile.

It’s another of those daily demonstrations of incongruence between the ideal and the actual in this peculiar country.

Well-intentioned, complicated, sophisticated solutions or legislation for issues first-worlders worry about, and modern life and a rights culture demand, are being created and implemented (POPIA enforcement began 1 July) in an incapable, sometimes barbaric state in which nothing really works as it should. What’s worse is that we’re becoming habituated to that state of things.

The Ideal veneer cracks so easily when it comes in contact with the increasingly anarchic attitude of the actual people of South Africa; when it must be implemented by municipalities and institutions riddled with inept, unskilled cadres and by businesses already burdened by BEE regulations.

The persistent fantasy that we are operating as a first-world country with our often high-minded and intricate web of laws, and that we are managing and maintaining efficient digital systems worthy of a modern state, annoys me. I have no quibble with striving for ideals. But as mother, or anyone’s gogo, would say, there’s no running before you can walk.

Cadre deployment has retarded our development.

Only a few months ago Ramaphosa spoke of the new ‘smart cities’ in our future (to jog your memory: Lanseria, Durban Aerotropolis, Mooikloof Mega City).

Yet how will people even travel to, or around such cities? Public transport is a disaster area.

There’s legislation up the wazoo on firearms, their licensing, their safekeeping, police storeroom protocols and even more legislation proposed. Yet, police firearms appear to move easily, in large numbers, into the arms of robbers and gangsters.

Gauteng drivers are at risk of becoming criminals simply because they cannot book a driver’s licence slot on the online booking system operated by the province.

SASSA’s website is buckling under the deluge of applications for the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grants. There are places where people live that still do not have access to water.

When this Zondo pageant is finally over and we are no longer transfixed by the televised battle between the political elite over who is to blame for the state of things and who should lead us, we have to focus both on the nuts and bolts needed to make this country work as well as the big task of rescuing the economy.

Yes, we need accountability. Yes, it was a great win for democracy that our President humbly subjected himself to answer a judge’s questions live on television. Yes, we want convictions and our money back.

But until our ideal denouements come to pass, which I’m willing to bet will take some time, we must turn our attention to getting the basics for a modern, first-world life working smoothly and properly. Otherwise more people will leave, whatever it costs them, and yet more will join the queues of destitute waiting for handouts.

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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