Does anyone still look at the Covid-19 stats on a daily basis as we used to? Are you, like me, one who stopped doing so four or five months ago? I felt that it was just too much and was depressing me.
With all the doom and gloom that has engulfed our existence since those dark days in March, one would be forgiven for feeling that, as Chinua Achebe put it ‘Things Fall Apart”. Wherever you look, things just do not seem to work and the dark cloud seems to be permanently over us and very little sunshine seems to be peeping through to give us hope. Our infrastructure is crumbling in front of our eyes and no one seems able or interested in finding a permanent and sustainable solution to it. Electricity infrastructure is under total onslaught and it is a free-for-all leading to a ballooning Eskom debt which may never be settled.
If you walk around the biggest town in the Chris Hani district you will be met with open electricity boxes everywhere and you wonder if we still have anyone in the town hall. Where do the people we put in charge of our municipalities live? Don’t they see what we see every day when they drive around in their fancy cars on their way to their fancy houses which we, the rat payers, ultimately pay for?
What do they think when they drive over roads that are horribly potholed? What do they think when they drive past electricity box after electricity box that is wide open to the elements, some with wires and more wires coming out of them to power a network of informal dwellings that are mushrooming all over the municipality? What do they think when the manager of parks under the community services department goes into his office at the gardens adjacent to St Michaels Cathedral in Komani and the park looks like a jungle? What do they think when the centre of town in Komani, the Hexagon, (a national monument) looks like a rundown park in one of the Apocalypse movies instead of the wonder it used to be?
There are principles which many public servants are expected to live by, uphold and abide by. The Batho Pele principles call for, among other things, Leadership and Strategic Direction, Customer Impact, Value for Money and Service Standards. I would add accountability, responsibility, dedication, diligence and honesty. Looking around you, do you feel that the local government, wherever you are, upholds any of these principles?
Contrast this with the way the national department of health under Zweli Mkhize has been handling the fallout from the Astra Zeneca vaccine issue. He has been forthright, measured and methodical in his approach to the purchase, handling and proposed distribution of the vaccine. Imagine if he and president Cyril Ramaphosa had listened to the likes of the DA and many of you and had jumped in head first and pre-ordered in huge quantities the first line of vaccines that came online as far back as June last year. Where would we be now with millions of doses of less effective vaccine against our variant? I am sure he would be slaughtered now, for wasteful expenditure.
When Mkhize announced that the vaccine would first be tested for 14 days and not be rolled out immediately, you all slated him as if he didn’t know what he was talking about. It now looks as if he was correct to be conservative and not panic-buy during the middle of the pandemic as many western countries did. While the ANC government might not be doing such a splendid job in many of the areas – in the health department they have shown measured and strategic leadership that we rarely see anywhere else. Let us allow science to guide us and not allow emotions and panic to overwhelm our thinking. We may not be in good hands overall, but there are some pockets of excellence.