NEWS & ANALYSIS

Thank you, oh wise and benevolent ones!

David Bullard expresses his gratitude at the NCCC's decision to relax the lockdown

OUT TO LUNCH

It’s a sure sign of the meticulous attention to detail, not to mention the sheer intellectual heft of those involved in our beloved National Covid Command Council (NCCC), that the clear and concise instructions for a move to Level 2 last Saturday evening were greeted with tears of joy by we grateful commoners.

I have no doubt that church bells would have rung out across the land had churches not been locked up for the past 140 odd days. I am equally confident that tearful elderly folk with co-morbidities would have shunned their masks, thrown self-distancing caution to the wind and embraced one another with joy in the nearest shopping mall car park had it not been for a fear of adding to the already 300 000 fellow South Africans who have been charged with ‘offences under the Disaster Management Act’. Such heinous crimes include going off to the pharmacist without evidence of a prescription (R2 500 admission of guilt fine) and driving a car carrying passengers without wearing a face mask (R3 000 admission of guilt fine).

Apparently paying the admission of guilt fine (as most law abiding people would do just to make the ridiculous situation go away) means you now have a criminal record so don’t even think of applying for a travel visa should international flights ever be resumed. On the bright side though you do qualify for admission as an ANC cadre.

The great strength of the NCCC as they have guided us all through five months of protection from probably the worst threat to human life since the bubonic plague is their clarity of thought. Hours spent deliberating in meetings, with the sole intention to protect the lives of vulnerable South African citizens, have resulted in precision rulings.

For example, the ban on open toed footwear, the banning of the sale of rotisserie chickens and the exact instructions as to what sort of T-shirt to buy and how it was to be worn. Last Saturday the good news for smokers and drinkers was that the ban on tobacco and alcoholic beverages is to be lifted and hooch can now be served in restaurants.

This will hopefully give our hospitality industry a much-needed fillip because sitting in a restaurant and drinking contraband wine served in a teapot isn’t nearly as classy as seeing the bottle on the table.

Alcohol can now be served up until 10pm and I presume there’s no law to say that if your glass is filled at 9.55pm then you have to empty the glass by 10pm. So the answer is to place a large order at 9.45pm and get quietly sozzled for the next couple of hours. Except for one small problem. The curfew is still in place and that starts at 10pm, just as the beaming waiter who now has his job back at long last brings you a tankard of foaming ale. Dianne Kohler-Barnard was one of the first to comment on Sunday morning with this Tweet: “So if restaurants are open til 10...and the curfew starts at 10...does the ANC supply teleporters to get clients/staff home?”

A good question but one I fear that misses the whole point of the 10pm rule Dianne. Do you honestly think that the NCCC would have made this announcement without thinking it through thoroughly? Would President Frogboiler really have taken the trouble to address the nation with a straight face announcing the relaxation of booze rules and the continuation of the curfew if he wasn’t in on the joke? I think not.

The ANC has been coming in for quite a bit of stick of late what with the #VoetsekANC Fridays and the final realisation among our more lefty media commentators that those of us they denounced as ‘racist’ and ‘right wing’ in the past for our ANC critiques might have been right all along about the ruling party. Even an organization as arrogant and deaf to constructive criticism as the ANC must be feeling a little bit unloved at the moment.

Hence last Saturday’s benevolence and the return of what the ruling party no doubt regard as citizen’s privileges; to be granted and taken away at will. Groveling wretches that we are, we must be grateful that our leaders have deemed us worthy to return some of our constitutionally protected rights.

Any sign of bad behaviour and we’ll all be back in the naughty corner again buying illicit ciggies and drinking Ken Forrester’s finest out of a chipped teapot.

The whole point of the promise that you can order alcohol up to 10pm is that it aint gonna happen. Rather like the promise to build 1 000 000 new homes in Alex that was made last year, it’s simply designed to give you a warm fuzzy feeling about the guys who have been stealing from you these past 26 years.

The fact that the curfew coincides with last orders is all part of the elaborate joke the NCCC has loved playing on us these past five months. And some cynics even suggest that these new ‘gifts’ from above are designed to take our minds off the rampant COVID corruption that Cde Ace was bragging about recently. Some hope.

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The neighbour’s kids came round last week to show me one of their toys. Well, when I say ‘kids’ I should point out that they are both in their thirties and one is an admitted advocate while the other holds a senior position in a large corporate. But they are still technically the neighbour’s kids. The toy in question was a virtual reality headset. In fact, priced higher than a top of the range smart phone, it could hardly be classed as a toy. The headset consists of goggles which fit over enough of the face to completely cut off the real world and audio speakers which provide the sound effects.

One of the programmes which had been downloaded on the headset involved the wearer getting into a lift. If you’ve never experienced one of these things it really is quite disorientating. Unlike a TV there is no border to what you see so as you move your head around you get a 360 degree view of your virtual surroundings in high definition.

I got into the virtual lift and pressed the button for the top floor. The lift doors opened and I found myself at the top of a skyscraper with a plank leading out of the lift into thin air. I could look down and see the street scene below me and I could look across at the other buildings. All quite scary. The challenge is to walk out onto the plank.

Now, when I first heard about this I thought it would be a doddle. After all, you know that this is only a sort of movie and you are actually standing in the middle of your living room with a pair of very expensive goggles on. But when it came to shuffling out onto the board it was a different matter.

Firstly, you can’t see your feet so you have no real idea whether you are standing on the plank or not. Secondly, you have no idea what will happen if you step off it. I felt my legs go very wobbly and, even though I don’t suffer from vertigo, it took me a while to summon up the nerve to step onto the plank.

My wife was videoing this at the time and it’s a truly pathetic sight to see an old codger with a large pair of goggles on shuffling along his living room carpet with a terrified expression on his face.

So realistic was the experience that I briefly had the brilliant idea of developing a virtual reality future SA programme. Set a few years from now it would give a terrifyingly clear picture of the economic devastation we are in for if the ANC don’t buck up their ideas.

We could offer a well-connected tenderpreneur the opportunity to supply 20 million sets of VR goggles at a suitably ramped up price and distribute them to voters. Or we could opt for the cheaper alternative and just tell them to look across our border at Zimbabwe and ask if they like what they see.

David Bullard is Richard Cock’s guest on ‘People of Note’ at 6pm this Sunday 23rd August on Classic FM. www.classic1027.co.za