Police Minister Bheki Cele has made an immense amount of noise, secured a disproportionate amount of media coverage and has still achieved nothing except be objectionable – again, says the writer. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/African New Agency(ANA)
Police Minister Bheki Cele has made an immense amount of noise, secured a disproportionate amount of media coverage and has still achieved nothing except be objectionable – again, says the writer. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha/African New Agency(ANA)

A vexing and perplexing start to 2021

By Opinion Time of article published Jan 9, 2021

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Kevin Ritchie

Johannesburg - On December 31 every year, we all promise ourselves that the New Year will somehow be different. But our resolutions never really seem to work. The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is the best excuse yet not to hit the gyms – for fear of infection, of course. There are plenty of other excuses, though.

Some people, though, don’t even have to try: the coronavirus has been a godsend for ministers Bheki Cele and Fikile Mbalula. Both have been able to make an immense amount of noise, secure a disproportionate amount of media coverage and still achieve nothing except be objectionable – again. Cele wanted everyone not just at home by 9pm on December 31, 2020, but asleep too. Mbalula wanted aircraft to stop flying well before 9pm at night so that flight crews and airport staff won’t break curfew, even though he exempted buses and taxis.

As for the leaders of the opposition, John Steenhuisen and Julius Malema, did they even want to change when the clock struck 12? Juju partied up a storm. When he was caught out, after posting videos on his own social media accounts, he told reporters they’d get their apology in heaven.

Steenhuisen is hell-bent on making 2021 the year he really becomes the voodoo doll the twitterati have to prick between his perpetual sniping and silly Twars. Last Sunday, he managed to be named mampara of the week by the Sunday Times, which is going to be fun and games when Parliament reconvenes after he famously stood up and declared he wasn’t prepared to take any questions from MPs who had been tarred by the very same brush.

Back in the real world, the fevered debate this week has been over the government’s vaccine plan, or hastily cobbled together wish list – depending on who you listen to. From only being able to inoculate 10% in 2021 to suddenly looking to vaccinate 67% of the population by the end of the year even quicker than you can say 67 minutes for Mandela, would appear to put the court of opinion firmly behind Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s detractors.

His boss, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has plenty on his plate and it’s not just Ace Magashule and the usual RET suspects baying for his blood; now he’s even got an ordinary city councillor in Durban claiming only white people are getting the vaccine and that the coronavirus is being spread by 5G towers.

It raises the very real question as social media becomes a sea of obituaries for loved ones who have succumbed – and are continuing to perish – of how many South Africans will actually take the vaccine, even if the government eventually secures enough for all? It’s not something that will vex the DA, they’re too worried that prisoners will be among the high-risk groups to get it first.

It’s difficult, nine days in, to say if anyone’s broken their New Year’s resolutions; it doesn’t look like anyone promised to be nicer and do better in the first place.

* Kevin Ritchie is a journalist and a former newspaper editor.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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