Booze, beaches and all those jabs

Dolphins swimming by

We had a short-notice presidential address on Monday which leaves us in post-holiday lockdown, featuring eased restrictions including a reduced curfew, the return of alcohol and a lifting of the beach ban – with news on the first vaccine arrivals.

This is the vaccine we heard would cost us some 2.5 times more (US$5,25) than other countries were paying. Apparently that’s because South Africa is considered an (ahem) “upper-middle income country”. Things fell apart when a Belgian minister tweeted prices that European Union countries were paying (US$2,16).

Now, I might not be the smartest person around, but an African country competing with EU countries for income status … and winning? That flying pig of a story is going to crash-land because there’s not a pilot alive that could keep it in the air.

It should be noted that these are initial vaccine doses acquired for frontline workers, reportedly. After this initial purchase from the Serum Institute of India (SII), other vaccine options will be explored.

The problem for South Africans is that the government has proved pretty dismal at vaccine acquisition to this point. They’ve missed payment deadlines already and it can’t sit too well with many people that the prison population is amongst those at the head of the queue for vaccines.

When you factor in that India is making good use of an inexpensive Ivermectin treatment for their own people while it has been banned in South Africa by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), there are even more uncomfortable questions. Only recently has the University of the Free State (UFS) announced they are looking at a Ivermectin clinical trial.

Since that initial news, we’ve had an update that there is limited use of Ivermectin being allowed.

The real burn though comes from government direct. At the end of January 2021, fast heading towards a whole year of living under pandemic lockdown regulations, South Africa’s government has dithered and delayed, made questionable decisions and doubled-down in the face of logic and reason. The only thing that has happened in a whirlwind is the announcement of tax hikes.

Yup, that’s right. In the face of significant job losses, mass unemployment, the continuing collapse of industries, the uncertainty around grant payments and a general dragging of feet in getting clarity on many topics, government have lost no time in announcing there will be increases in taxes in place by February.

The enthusiasm with which increased taxes have been accepted as the correct way forward is staggering. In the face of government bailouts for SOEs that have been ongoing for years, pickpocketing taxpayers further would seem a last resort, not a first.

If there’s nothing else anyone has learned from governments in the past, they have certainly learned that once a new tax is approved, it is exceedingly difficult to get rid of it. Governments do not like giving up any of your hard-earned money.

We don’t know if the tax will be a lump sum, a percentage, a one-off or spread over two or three tax seasons. Allow me a moment to speculate on something though. When the Covid tax hits the books, what are the chances it will mutate from a vaccine-funding tax in 2021 to an NHI (National Health Insurance) tax from 2022?

The South African government have been scratching their heads for a while now about how to implement this new universal healthcare programme, taking this route cannot possibly have failed to attract their attention. We shall watch this space together.

On another subject, there is a national municipal election taking place this year and a national general election scheduled for 2024. These will be uncomfortable times for those in office when the decisions around the pandemic will be raw, festering wounds for the populace. It is thus not surprising that when people decided to take their beaches back in the Western Cape that the Public Order Policing (POP) forces stood down – can you imagine the visuals of armoured police with riot shields and batons taking on people in flip-flops and carrying towels? I’m not sure there’s a political party in the world that would survive that disaster.

Basically in February we get longer days, beaches and booze back – all within specific boundaries. We shall see how it plays out from here.

On a final note, with the ending of the New Year’s resolution month and tackling the more sensible February, I will again start writing more often – so you might need to look the other way if you don’t enjoy it, or perhaps make vigorous use of that scroll wheel. What will require rather more effort on my part is fishing out photos to go with my postings. I have thousands of images of race cars, but not nearly a large enough selection of other images, I guess I shall have to find reasons to adventure and build up that catalogue.

Author: Morné Condon

Automotive journalist in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, following new models, old cars, car clubs and motorsport. My interests are not restricted to the automotive environment, although this is where I am mostly to be found.

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