Cyril's vaccine task team from hell

Andrew Donaldson writes on the ANC govt's ongoing masterclass in mishandling the Covid-19 epidemic


As I write, there are between 15 211 824 and 17 866 384 people ahead of me in the queue in the UK for the Covid-19 vaccination. This is according to an online gizmo built by Omni Calculator, a bunch of algorithmically-inclined millennials from Poland who aim to calculate everything that is possible to calculate about the human existence. 

That queue will obviously have shortened (a wee bit) by the time you read this. Nevertheless, I expect to receive my first jab sometime between March 31 and April 13. The exact date depends on whether health workers and volunteers can deliver two million vaccinations a week but Downing Street insists all is on track with the rollout. 

The calculator was launched shortly after the  Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by UK authorities and, as such, does not take into account other rollouts, like the Oxford vaccine. It factors in an uptake of 70.6 per cent. This is the percentage of the population expected to turn up for a jab when called to do so. The figure is based on responses to the NHS’s annual flu vaccine – the uptake here among those aged 64 and older has ranged between 70 and 75 per cent since 2005.

However, the uptake for the Covid vaccine could be higher than expected. A recent YouGov poll revealed that 81 per cent of Britons would take the vaccine if offered it now. Reports that the UK has the world’s highest daily Covid death rate may have changed some minds. 

Imagine, then, if undertakers were to announce they were running out of coffins, as is the case in South Africa. That would put the fear of God into the Home Counties, and uptake could be as high as 90 per cent.

Sadly, Omni is unable to predict when ordinary South Africans can expect to receive a jab. I think we know why this is. Government’s planning in this regard is not just a shambles, it’s a box of turds. 

Simply put, the ruling party’s primary response to the pandemic was to approach it as an opportunity to further a political agenda. National disaster prime minister Nkosazana “The Clarice” Virodene-Zuma has declared as much in with her Pol Potty “Year Zero” intimations of a revolutionary utopia emerging from a ruined and beggared society. 

Yes, it’s plague-assisted radical economic transformation.

Ever the fantasist, Cyril Ramaphosa believes there may be something here. Or so he told that gang of freeloading grifters, the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum, this week. 

Government, Squirrel said, will be looking at ways black-owned businesses can participate in economic recovery in the year ahead. This will include a “focus on the key economic sectors which drive the economy” – that is, those that are still functional – and the role black business will have in these sectors. 

He was speaking in his capacity as alleged party leader and not the country’s alleged president – although that distinction is quite blurred these days.

“That in my view will be the game changer. Sometimes we talk in broad terms about the economy, we now need to go deeper into exactly what makes the economy works and function, and the participation of black people in all areas of economic activity. 

“We will then see how best we can get black people to participate. This is the year that we should be able to do that and move the needle of economic empowerment for women, young people and black people broadly. We need to be able to say in a few years time that the empowerment of our people is now becoming a reality.”

Needle of economic empowerment? Excuse me, but the only needle that we should be talking about is the one that will be used to inject viral antibodies into the nation’s deltoid muscles. 

In this regard, we should be very frightened. More frightened than we already are. For Ramaphosa also used his Zoombie chat with the “progressive” elites to announce the formation of an inter-ministerial task team that will oversee the vaccine roll-out.

It’s a bit late in the day, you’d think, and pardon my English, for yet another cluster-fuck. Besides, do we not have one of these already? No, wait, that was the ministerial advisory committee on vaccines trumpeted by health minister Zweli Mkhize back in mid-September. 

By that stage, several countries had already concluded deals with vaccine producers Pfizer-BioNTech. It’s now reported that Pfizer had tried for “months and months” to negotiate a potential uptake of their vaccine with the health department – only to be systematically ignored and rebuffed at every turn by the South Africans. 

The government’s approach has since changed somewhat, and in late December, almost six months after the company had first contacted them, there followed a series of frantic but basically fruitless approaches to Pfizer. South Africa now finds itself at the back of the queue for scarce supplies. 

The suspicion that Mkhize’s advisory committee was holding out for a better deal, or that the Russians and the Chinese, perhaps even the Cubans and the Venezuelans, would be dishing out the vaccine mahala is not without foundation. Nonetheless, the upshot of all this is that the African country hardest hit by Covid has yet to take delivery of a single dose of any vaccine. 

Squirrel’s new task team doesn’t offer much hope of improving the situation, given that the usual gang of incompetents and cronies are all here:

* ANC deputy president David “The Cat” Mabuza is chairman. He’s good at running things … into the ground. Opposition lawmakers point to a long history of failure in governance. He currently heads up the political task team on Eskom, and just look at how well that’s turned out.

* Zweli Mkhize. A medical professional, which helps, but with a bedside manner that errs on the side of dithering.

* Finance minister Tito Mboweni. Already responsible for defaulting on crucial Covax vaccine programme payments.

* The Clarice. 

* Minister in the presidency for planning, monitoring and evaluation Jackson Mthembu. Tested positive for Covid-19, so there’s a vested interest. Last heard telling DA leader John Steenhuisen to keep his nose out the ruling party’s business. Which is a bit rich, since the ANC plans to steal everybody else’s.

* Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Brings a certain heft to proceedings. But not much else.

* Police minister Cheek Bile. Come the disaster, come the thuggish halfwit.

* State security minister Ayanda Dlodlo. Had her mobile phone hacked and cloned last year. It figures.

* Higher education minister Blade Nzimande. Where there’s a committee, there’s a Stalinist dinosaur.

* Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. Had to be included else he’d moan that he’s the victim of another political vendetta. Besides there might be some dosh lying about that he can throw at SAA.

* Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoeledi. And why not? He’s not terribly busy at the moment.

* Public service minister Senzo Mchunu. Because nothing can be done without the trade unions, and this guy’s the workers’ go-to sweetheart. 

* Trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel. Good at doing whatever he does, but only in secret. So nobody knows what he does.

* Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu. Has a heart of coal, a penchant for military chic and says extremely stupid things about social distancing when social grant “non-recipients” are hosed down by water cannon. 

* International relations minister Naledi Pandor. Sensible choice. But can the team just for one minute stop laughing at her accent and listen to what she has to say? We shall see.

Meanwhile, as I hit the “send” button, there are now between 15 000 673 and 17 646 302 people ahead of me in that queue. Just saying.

Truly screwed

Some embarrassment for Gwede Mantashe, the mines and energy minister. An independent media ethics inquiry convened by the SA National Editors Forum this week ruled that Mantashe had showed “executive contempt” for the press when he publicly claimed in 2019 that he had paid two Sunday World journalists to kill a report on his adulterous adventures.

Uncomfortable as it may be, we must revisit this shabby business. You will recall that aspiring actress Lerato Habiba Makgatho, described as a “slay queen” in the gossip columns, had taken to social media to reveal details of affairs with both Mantashe and finance minister Tito Mboweni, boasting of the attention she had received from the two cabinet ministers.

Initial reports suggested that Mantashe, playfully dubbed “Tiger” by his paramour due to his sexual exploits, was the better blesser. Minx Makgatho, 26, told Sunday World: “He gave me between R10k and R15k, and Mboweni will only give me R3k once in a long time.” The fiscal restraint may seem appropriate, given the latter’s career path. Mboweni was also deemed the more conservative in bed, favouring the missionary position with the the lights off. 

Makgatho later sought to clear up misunderstandings in this regard. She had never implied, she insisted in a subsequent interview, that Mboweni was a poor lover, only more “traditional” than Mantashe. In fact, the reserved bonk governor, if I may, had considerable staying power and could manage “six rounds” with her, Makgatho said.

This does not surprise. Mboweni openly admits a deep fascination with Mpumalanga’s mystic Lebombo region, and he may be more knowledgable than most when it comes to the secrets of its valleys and hills. Evidently a shaman in the kitchen, he’s known to throw strange bugs and odd tubers into the pot whenever the spirits take him. Who knows what aphrodisiacal powers his dark, garlicky preparations may impart. 

Judging by reports, Mantashe has no need of such muti. It should be noted, though, that the “Tiger” nom de shag is overly flattering. Many commentators consider the warthog a more fitting animal to be channelled at such times. But no matter. Makgatho is a smart cookie; when it comes to blessing, she knows the endearments are best laid on thick. Again, this is unsurprising and hardly news.

What is shocking, though, is that Mantashe allegedly paid R70 000 to keep all this out the newspapers. If so, then he has been taken for a ride. Even in an era of tenderpreneurial excess and hyper-inflated invoicing, this is outrageously steep. It’s at least triple the standard journalist bribe; quadruple even, if you consider the low standing of the fish wrap in question. 

If only Mantashe had sought the advice of Ebrahim Rasool. The disgraced former Western Cape premier knows a thing or two about influencing reporters. According to a 2010 report on the “brown envelope” scandal that rocked the Cape Argus during its last years as a decent newspaper, Rasool’s alleged payments to an embedded staffer in return for favourable coverage ranged between R5 000 and R10 000. 

This is more in keeping with standard industry rates. As ever in journalism, balance is needed.

A speedy recovery

Carl Niehaus, camouflage expert and agitated fibber for the MK Military Veterans Association, has complained of being the target of a coordinated smear campaign by the white monopoly capital media while he was in hospital battling coronavirus. “It is sad,” he has said, “that some in our society have become so hate-filled, and vicious, that one cannot even hope at a time of grave illness, for support and sympathy.”

Shame, but it’s not only journalists. Carl is upset that ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, a comrade, had also attacked and undermined his “long history” as a party member and his position on the MKMVA’s national executive. “This she did, knowing that when she was doing so, I was gravely ill. It was unnecessary and callous – I am deeply saddened by it.”

Here at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) we are not surprised. It’s well known that Duarte abhors any form of weakness. The gorgon of Luthuli House, she has no time for the lame and infirm. She doesn’t just throw them to the wolves – she is the wolf. She will tear off the heads of those who annoy her and then without hesitation devour their guts. The rest of the pack will be lucky if there are leftovers. 

As it is, Carl’s complaints about Duarte have already landed him in hot water, and the party is taking action to suspend him “with full pay” from his job in the office of ANC secretary-general Ace “What Pierneef?” Magashule. We can expect more in the way of blood, snot and tears in the coming weeks.

But that is neither here nor there. The thing is, Carl, it’s all very well claiming you were at death’s door, but you do know the rules: where is the sick note from Matron? 

Making America great again, again

As the orange putz slouched off into history, the worst American president of all time promised he’d be back to continue “what we started”. But leaving us, if maybe only for a while, Donald Trump rattled off a bunch of valedictory claims to bother the fact-checkers a while longer. Parting bullshots, you could say. For old time’s sake. 

The one that I particularly enjoyed, a favourite with those detached from reality, is this chestnut, delivered during his Tuesday address to the nation: “I am especially proud to be the first president in decades who has started no new wars.” This all depends on what constitutes “war” and hinges on that vital qualifier: “new”. 

The US’s last formal declaration of war was in December 1941, following the raid on Pearl Harbour. Since then, American presidents have used the “authorisation of military force” that is granted by Congress to enter various conflicts. George W Bush used this for the Iraq War. Ditto Barack Obama for his intervention in Syria.

In addition to increasing US drone strikes in Somalia, Trump has made use of legislation passed by previous administrations to order the October 2019 assassination of Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi, an operation carried out without first notifying Congress, and the January 2020 airstrike which killed Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani.  

As for me, well, I miss him already.