Winston Churchill’s radio broadcast of the 9th February 1941 was a particularly rousing affair. In part designed for a local audience, and in part an international plea for desperately needed assistance.
At the time of his speech, the United States administration was in the process of approving the Lend Lease Act, which would provide financial and military assistance to both Britain and China. Churchill understood the importance of approval and so he concluded his broadcast with a direct appeal to his future allies.
“Put your confidence in us.” He said. “ Give us your faith and your blessing, and under Providence all will be well.” He assured them “We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down”.
“Give us the tools!” He concluded, “And we will finish the job”
The Covid-19 Pandemic might not be war, but it is likely as close as we will get to living through one in our lifetime.
Whereas all countries are facing the same onslaught to a greater or lesser extent, South Africans are particularly vulnerable on this mine field. Battle weary from years of corruption, looting, mismanagement and deceit, slow to trust and rationally sceptical, it is little wonder that they view every announcement and every promise with suspicion. The lack of transparency with regard to vaccine acquisition process, the obfuscation around PPE funding and the fear that the ANC has used their lunch money to buy watches, has done little to boost the confidence of the country. Especially when asked to go to war on empty stomachs.
South Africans, however, are remarkable. Even if their generals are content to lead from the back, the people of the country are not. And have wasted no time in stepping forward. Where government has failed, the private sector has stepped in. And it will continue to do so, if given the “tools” to finish the job.
What makes it particularly sad is that the tools needed are not a particularly big ask from reasonable leadership. These include:
- The cessation of funding to failing and hopeless parastatals, including South African Airways. We know this. Government knows this. And anyone who doesn’t have the vaccine knows it because that’s one of the places that money has disappeared to.
- The cessation of merciless looting. Perhaps the first step is to loot with restraint. We can work on it from there.
- Suspension without pay of any government official suspected of corruption until their name is cleared. This will provide an incentive to do so, rather than to avoid it altogether.
- The complete deregulation of power production and supply. Remember when there was no competition to Telkom compared to what we have today? Competition works. Once again, there cannot be a person in the country who believes that after the 13 years of persistent and relentless power constraints, that ESKOM is on the verge of sorting it all out. The brand is rubbish. The service is a disaster. And the impact on the economy is unquantifiable.
- Allow the private acquisition of vaccines. The bottom line is that every person who is vaccinated is one less person who will contract the virus, which might place pressure on the medical system and spread it to others. The quicker people are vaccinated the quicker we can get the economy back on track.
- And finally. Stop with the irrational regulations. Irrational laws, including the banning of smoking, eats away at the trust for government. It makes us consider what nefarious agenda is at play and reminds us why nothing should be taken at face value.
South Africans are a resilient and remarkable people. People with great humour, incredible initiative and tremendous kindness. People who when treated like adults will behave like ones.
It is time for the ANC and the government to show the people of the South Africa that they have confidence in them. And not expect it only to function the other way around. It is time to treat people like the adults that we are by giving us the tools so desperately needed.
Give us the tools, Mr. President, and we will finish the job.