I had the rare privilege to wander outside the bounds of my yard this week and do some work that didn’t require me to sit behind a desk. I travelled all over Pretoria to deliver goods to old-age homes.
Admittedly, the general atmosphere didn’t seem normal or pleasant. In fact, it was quite sombre, oppressive and dystopic. The buzz of urban life turned into an eerie miasma and it’s as if all the vibrancy had dissipated. I’m sure the lockdown has had some benefits (it’s difficult to measure, though), but this must not be the new normal.
At three different supermarkets I was greeted by queues of varying lengths. Some quite long and some shorter. People waiting forlornly to buy the bare necessities and being at the mercy of a doorman, who let them in one-by-one so as to not overcrowd the understocked stores. The shelves are invariably half empty, some are taped off and even the products that are permitted to be sold, are sparsely stocked.
No tobacco, no booze, no real choice and no logic.
The roads are much less busy than usual and there is suddenly a police presence never witnessed before. We were accosted by police officers after exchanging a few words outside an old-age home to arrange for later deliveries. We were told that if we don’t stop “socialising”, we will be arrested. With a fair amount of irony, I remembered all the times that I’ve reported burglaries and other crimes and never heard anything back from the police after that. A petrol attendant told me how they arrested a man for selling cigarettes on the side of the street during the lockdown.
I am certainly no alarmist and I’m not saying that the lockdown perfectly resembles every aspect of a full-blown socialist society, but it doubtless exhibits some of its most important elements. The government’s fiats and strong-arm tactics, the empty shelves, the queues for basic necessities, an overweening yet inept state, curtailed civil liberties, people being arrested and charged for supposedly spreading fake news and other bizarre reasons, people being confined to their houses or anywhere the State deems fit, the lack of accountability, the secretiveness, the rising unemployment and desperation, rationing, and so forth. The current lockdown is already an advanced form of what socialism has to offer and few people seem to realise it.
For all Cuba’s Old-World charm, tourists enjoy it because their stay is only temporary. You don’t want to live there and after the barons fled, even normal people who initially supported the revolution climbed aboard boats to leave.
Other socialist hellholes where you don’t want to live are Zimbabwe and Venezuela, where shortages are even more acute. Like Cuba, these are places where everything is supposedly free except their citizens, whilst nothing is available – not even information. I recently wrote to the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, regarding the role and rights of citizens when field workers visit their homes. Also, what this process entails. To date my questions have remained unanswered and the information we have received through the media is tangential and inadequate.
It’s easy (and lazy) to attribute all of this solely to the lockdown, but it’s been happening, and not imperceptibly, for a long while in South Africa. Revolutions are not the only way to achieve socialism, but a perilous disease does help potentates with such designs to achieve their ends.
The ANC and EFF have unabashedly lionised the economic policies of Cuba, the Soviet Union and Venezuela. They are a member of the Socialist International and have a formal alliance with communists and militant left-wing trade unionists. Despite Cyril Ramaphosa’s supposed pro-business orientation, the tripartite alliance is in no mood to allow large-scale reforms. Too many vested socialist interests.
The ANC has been making laws and espousing policies that purportedly rectify historic wrongs. So did Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro. Without exception, these policies have made permanent victims of everyone, except the rulers instituting them. And force, totalitarianism and death are always their necessary by-products and tools to maintain them.
2020 is indeed a tumultuous year. However, it is instructive to remember some historic milestones. Thirty years ago, scores of East European countries freed themselves from Soviet domination and ditched communism. Germany also became reunified after the fall of the Berlin Wall the previous year. It was also the year that FW de Klerk unbanned the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP). Thus, while countries where communism was practiced were eager to shed their socialist overlords, avowed socialists were only a few years away from assuming power in South Africa and commencing their National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
The long-lasting impact of communism on the countries where it was implemented is still evident today. Some have shifted the fulcrum to the other side of the ideological spectrum. As the legacy and failures of communism seem to recede from the world’s memory, and socialism’s many ills are plain to see today, let us never dither in denouncing this pernicious ideology and man-made virus.
We are getting a taste for it with the current lockdown and I, for one, don’t like it one bit.
Dr Eugene Brink is a strategist and political analyst.