Help us Out Here Mr President

Dear President Ramaphosa,

I want more than anything for you to succeed. Not just for me and for my family, but for the entire country. For the wonderful, colourful and crazy nation that is South Africa.

But you have to help us out here. On Sunday in your Human Right’s Day message, you assured us, not for the first time, that we would all receive a vaccine. Which is really nice. Lovely, in fact. But I think at this late stage of the game a little more information is not unreasonable an expectation. You asked us to be patient. And we will be. God knows, we have put up with Eskom, with SAA, with the corruptions of the ANC. We can do patience. But it’s becoming too much of an ask.

Without information.

And you need to talk to your Ministers. I don’t mean to be picky but there was something a little too self-congratulatory with the announcement that South Africa had divested itself of a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines that had landed more than a month prior.

Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement. “The minister can confirm that the full purchase amount was received by the department on Monday last week. The AU and South African teams then ensured that all logistical arrangements are in place for the shipment of the vaccines. The minister is pleased to announce that the first batch of vaccines that is being delivered will benefit 9 member states. The balance will be collected this week to be delivered to 5 other countries,”

Whoop Dee Doo. Mr President. Whoop Dee Doo.

I know that you would have liked us to take the minister’s lead and respond with a corresponding and matching level of excitement. But to me it felt like I had just been told that my father sold my puppy. But also that I shouldn’t feel bad, because he got a good price for it. And that I shouldn’t fret about delivery, because it’s been taken care of.

As if that was a concern. It wasn’t, Mr President.

To be clear. I didn’t want to lose my puppy. That it will make another kid happy, or in this case, 9 other countries, is little comfort. Especially because neither you nor he has yet told us what will be offered in its place.

If anything.

So excuse me, Mr President, if I don’t leap on to the delusional train of ‘Patience’ that you are asking me to. Maybe tell us where we are going, how long it will take together and what we will encounter along the way.

It is also worth asking why you insisted on selling the only real vaccines that we had. The AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is 80% effective at preventing the disease in the elderly and does not materially increase the risk of blood clots, according to the biotech firm, following its US phase III efficiency trials.

It in fact was 79% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in the overall population and 100% effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalisation, it said. So even if we didn’t want to administer it to the elderly, why not offer it to younger people so that they will have some measure of protection?

Why turn down a million opportunities to save lives? And what does it say about your treatment of us, that you did?

It takes a genuine leader to acknowledge when something isn’t working. It’s unspeakably difficult. But courageous leadership means accepting failure, accepting that something different needs to be done, and then facilitating it.

Now is the time Mr President. The only reason for the lack of material communication is the lack of material progress. Now is the time to allow pharmacies, hospitals and medical aids to buy and administer the vaccines.

You have tried and not succeeded. It’s not the end of the world. Unless you continue along this path.

And then, for many South Africans, it might be.

You might not see it, but most of us want you to succeed. For your sake, for ours and for our children.

Now is the time for a fresh approach.

With respect,

Howard Feldman.