There have been many futurists, economists, virologists, and scenario planners warning of a pandemic that threatens the survival of the human race. Some are out of self-interest, some to validate their professions and others because they are concerned for the “great unwashed.” To that end, books have been written and movies rolled off the Hollywood mill, exploiting people’s morbid desire for the macabre and the dystopian, each one offering a fresher, more gruesome angle so satiate our addictions to disaster porn. So along comes the “coronavirus” known by its medical term “Covid-19” and within a month the world is on lockdown. Here in the Southern tip of Africa, our President, true to form has followed international convention and has instituted the most draconian measures short of the restrictions on public movement normally associated with massive civil strife or all-out war. South Africa is officially on “lockdown” for 21-days.
We were told in no uncertain terms that only essential services, read, all big business will be available till we’ve “flattened the curve” read, brought the number of new infections and deaths to within an acceptable statistical average that meets the murder appetite of the republic. However, unlike our Western and African counterparts, South Africa is a uniquely constructed economic society, this because of the devastation of Apartheid. We have big business that dominates the economy through a 93% stake in the JSE, 72% ownership of the land and farms, a small but struggling medium-sized business sector and a volatile but thriving informal sector. One-in-six people (2.5 million) are employed within the informal economy. It represents an estimated 17% of the economic productivity, which together with the criminal economy means that it contributes roughly R 20 for every R 100 produced in GDP. By presidential decree, all non-essential services, read the small, micro and medium-sized businesses will be closed for almost a month.
Assuming the average GDP of South Africa is R1.2 trillion, divided by the 12-months of the year equals R100 billion per month and the informal and other related industries contribute as much as 20% to that figure, it follows that the losses to the “man in the street” or informal sector should be in the order of R20 billion in income. Now that is a fantastic amount for a sector that isn’t connected to the banking-insurance matrix, has very little if any cash flow reserves rely on the direct participation of its clients daily and play a “hand-to-mouth” game of survival one day to the other. This by any standard is an unmitigated economic disaster, the likes of which are reminiscent of the Apartheid economic structures that deliberately favoured white people at the expense of black people.
I am not suggesting a form of economic “Russian roulette” here with people’s lives, I just think that unlike our Western counterparts who simply started printing vast amounts of money to throw at the disease, South Africa is still rigidly controlled by its masters at the IMF sans the “negotiated settlement” of 1994. This means in effect that we are not able to employ the same measures of financial and debt relief our otherwise gung-ho, partners in other countries have done. Instead, as with all the decisions our government makes, it is still remitted to our de facto “head-office” in Washington DC. A problem that does not seem to irk our leaders too much. But how about the ranks of the unemployed swelling and the crime numbers growing beyond which is normal for South Africa, because, boy does the South Africa’s normal not register as normal elsewhere because of “Apartheid fatigue?”
The cruelty of fate cannot possibly match the wailing cries of the even more desperately poor in the weeks to come and an uptick in possible violence and mayhem because disease or no disease it sure feels like Apartheid again, to the dismay of all the older generations of black people. Of this I am certain, the rich will survive this irritating interlude as they have done so many times throughout how history and they will tell our story from their point-of-view with us, the masses as bit players in our own magazine…