A policy of “smart lockdown” has been instated as of 1 May. I’m glad they admit that what they had before was far from smart. Rather, it was ludicrously arbitrary, oppressive and is responsible for massive unemployment and poverty. But this so-called smart lockdown is not much better. The new system, rather than arbitrarily imposing restrictions on all South Africans, now arbitrary imposes different restrictions at different levels.
But don’t be fooled. Just because this new system is more nuanced doesn’t mean it’s good. Rather, the new system of staged lockdown should be compared to Eskom’s loadshedding schedules. While it is meant to provide time for the state to work on its capacity (electricity in loadshedding, healthcare in this case), we know from experience that this won’t happen. More and more money will disappear. Incompetent state officials won’t get anything done. And all that will happen is that more people starve because flawed data made the state force them into their house.
Phasing out the lockdown will be like phasing out rolling blackouts. We’ll never be rid of it if we let the state get away slowly boiling us like the metaphorical frog.
The Psychology of Lockdown Stages
A hard lockdown cannot last. I am not only referring to the human cost of forcing people to stay unemployed and keeping industry shut down. A hard lockdown cannot last because the citizenry cannot handle its overwhelmingly oppressive nature. They need at least the illusion of hope.
The insidious power of phased lockdowns is that it gives the illusion of phasing out the lockdown while it is doing nothing of the sort.
People laud Cyril Ramaphosa for his implementation of the smart lockdown system, but they don’t realise that the steps are still arbitrary, still violate our rights and are just a stopgap to maintain the lockdown while giving us the illusion that they care about us.
To make matters worse, Ramaphosa’s calls for easing lockdown restrictions were hastily trampled on by his ministers. Cigarettes were going to be unbanned on Friday, but calls by Dlamini-Zuma to keep it banned trumped the promises that the President made to the people. E-commerce, a vital component in keeping the economy running while maintaining social distancing, was attacked by trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel.
There is no rhyme or reason for most aspects of this lockdown. And when someone with sense tries to budge, politicians with delusions of grandeur pull back and take even more of our rights away.
They do this not to lose face, as they will never admit they made a mistake. But also because of clear connections to the smugglers that are thriving from the prohibition on alcohol and cigarettes.
What this flip-flopping reveals is that the state has no respect for you and no plan to truly phase out the lockdown. It only cares about its power and all the kickbacks politicians get from organised crime.
State of Emergency
The state’s deployment of over 73,000 troops and constant police brutality has more sinister undertones than mere law enforcement. Riots and unrest, exacerbated by incompetent food relief and police brutality, all work towards the governments desire to impose a state of emergency, granting them increased powers.
If they get to impose a State of Emergency, then the lockdown at the moment is child’s play in comparison.
Even if the state doesn’t force a state of emergency, we still have much to fear. The lockdown has quickly made many of us complacent towards authority. When and if the lockdown ends, it won’t truly end. We will all be so used to living in a police state that we won’t notice the rights they’ve taken from us.
The smart lockdown drip-feeds us our freedoms back, while keeping the substantive freedoms back. It makes us feel reliant on the state, like a dog being trained with morsels. When the lockdown finally ends, don’t be surprised at how many of its restrictions remain.
Politicians have tasted totalitarianism. And they like the taste.
The lockdown will never end if we don’t do something about it. Civil disobedience helped people escape oppression throughout history. What we need is community solidarity and an end to snitching on people disobeying bad laws.
More than that, we need to start exploring the idea that South Africa is not going to survive this. And that may be a good thing. Real nations need to arise from the ashes of a country that’s only legacy is Apartheid and corruption. Secession may be the best solution to ensuring we get our rights back.