It needs to be said. The South African Government has blood on its hands. It is not the first time, it will unlikely be the last, but there is little doubting that the deadly Covid 3rd wave that is devastating the country could have been blunted by a reasonable vaccine roll-out. And no amount of pretend “Family meetings” can wash away the stain and the stench of death that starts with corruption and incompetence and ends with the burials of grandparents, of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and husbands and wives.
South Africans are dying from Covid, and whereas not all the deaths could have been avoided, many could have been. If the roll-out had been handled better.
Here is an observation; We are always given information in the future. We are told that a certain number of vaccines will be arriving, that we will have vaccinated this amount of people and that we intend opening up more centers. We are rarely told about what we have done, as that is far less impressive. It is a good strategy as it calms and placate us. Because in the future all will be good. It worked for a while. We were assured that there would be no corruption. That vaccines would be arriving and that by February or March or April or whenever, this or that group would have been vaccinated.
Only it never panned out. And it’s never the government’s fault. It’s the new variant. It’s the FDA. It’s queue jumpers and non-mask wearers and people who are out after curfew. It’s beach goers. And it’s alcohol drinkers. Mostly it’s the rich countries. Which of course we would be, if the ANC didn’t pillage.
We have been hearing about the vaccine roll out since February when the government arrogantly and incorrectly rejected more than a million Astra Zeneca vaccines that could have changed the trajectory of the country’s response to the pandemic. Why? Because even if a 2nd Pfizer shot would have been required, we would be a further 1.2 million people into the program. Why? Because it would have enabled us to get the system tested and ironed out the glitches and given us the practice that we need. Why? Because it would not have undermined the confidence in the vaccine that is already a concern in the country. Why? Because less people would have died. And we would have been able to focus on getting the economy back on track.
On Thursday I spoke to a well-known Johannesburg General Practitioner. He told me that in his practice he had had 20 positive cases that day. Four of them needed to be hospitalized. Only, when he called the physician to admit them, he was told that there were no beds and no ventilators available and that he would come back to him when there were. It took only a few hours when he received the call to be told that he could now admit his patients. Because that number of people had succumbed to the disease. Another four families in mourning.
Imagine if we had a government who cared enough to get the country vaccinated.
On Saturday evening I checked in with Pulmonologist Dr Anton Meyberg. He works at a private hospital in Johannesburg. He was exhausted and could hardly speak. His world has shrunk and is coloured by suffering and loss. He and his partner had seen more than 100 hospitalized patients that day. He had admitted 23 new Covid patients and had lost 6. To give a sense of scale, at the peak of the 2nd wave his highest daily admission was around 15. And we have not yet reached the peak. By the evening he had no beds and no ventilators. He made this comment, ”I feel like they did in Italy. When we heard what they were going through I could never imagine it happening here. But it’s worse. They had no time to prepare. We knew this was coming. Why haven’t we got more hospitals and beds. It makes no sense!”
Indeed. It makes no sense.
It makes no sense that the government has disempowered private sector players like Discovery to an assistant role. It makes no sense that this was not given the priority that it should have been and that they insisted on controlling a process that no one in their right minds thought that they were capable of. It is virtually impossible to find a single ANC win and yet they insisted on being the hero of this story. Whether it’s arrogance or incompetence, it hardly matters when you are dead.
The irony is that South Africa is blessed with world leaders in the field. Our doctors, private sector health care, virologists, academics, and organizations such as SAHPRA are magnificent. We have the infrastructure, the drive and the ability to excel. We have business leadership and acumen to not only recover but to soar. What we don’t have is a government that is prepared to lead with courage. And sometimes leadership demands a recognition of failure and the mettle to allow others to do what they do best. Even if it means not being able to take the credit.
It’s time for the ANC to step back and to let the people of South Africa live.