Home Opinion and Features More confusion during these Covid-19 confusing times

More confusion during these Covid-19 confusing times

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It’s becoming increasingly difficult to discern what part of the regulations are rational and which parts are wholly capricious, says the writer

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BY THE beginning of next month, you should be able to drag deep on a cigarette, before heading off to the bottle store to stock up on your favourite tipple – depending on where your surname is on the alphabet.

We should be within finger-tip reach of Level 3, by next Saturday, at which stage, we should be able to buy our guilty pleasures legally, but who knows?

Smokers were supposed to have been able to buy from Level 4 a couple of weeks back, but we all remember how that played out.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to discern what part of the regulations are rational and which parts are wholly capricious, given Ebrahim Patel’s penchant for cropped bottoms, T-shirts and slippers, Bheki Cele’s disdain for dog walkers, joggers and drinkers and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s pathological hatred of smokers.

One undoubted innovation Covid-19 South Africa has spawned has been to transfer the lived experiences of pimply teenagers trying to score their bankies from petrol pomp joggies with all the attendant cold sweat, secret hand signals and arcane codes to blue-rinsed grannies trying to score a packet of Pakistani fags that smell like week-old undies and probably taste like them too.

As for the rest, the middle class has segued from the debutante criminality of fiddling your annual Sars logbooks with the creative writing of a Wilbur Smith adventure to a Stephen Leather underworld of WhatsApp chat rooms, Cold War-era dead letter drops in mall parking lots or suburban drive-bys for a decent bottle of hooch, albeit at prices that would have the Competition Commission apoplectic.

The lockdown has been an absolute boon for the creative; pineapples, yeast and sugar have flown off supermarket shelves. People have almost drunk themselves blind on home brew before graduating to YouTube tutorials to make their own stills and concocting stuff that really should be doing duty in shopping mall hand sanitiser dispensers – unless you’re one of those who tried to drink hand sanitisers in the first place.

In the meantime, glass producers face bankruptcy in an unintended consequence of the prohibition, while bottle store owners have come up with their own innovative suggestions for Level 3: allowing people to buy according to their surname and rationing the amount of liquor. That limit is, apparently, 120 beers at a time. But then again, maybe it’s a cunning ruse to blind-side President Cyril Ramaphosa’s teetotallers – if you can drink that amount you won’t be a social problem; you’ll be in a stupor.

As the “debates” get shoutier and more binary: we’re either Venezuelan socialists hellbent on radically transforming the economy by destroying it or running dog White Monopoly Capitalists hellbent on ruthlessly murdering the poor and vulnerable by unlocking the lockdown, the best word this week has been the president’s.

In the midst of new law fare offensives challenging the lockdown – and him – Ramaphosa’s response has been to officially welcome it. Why? Because the Constitution says we can – and should – challenge the government. Some of us, typically, must have missed the memo.

Once again, Uncle Cyril scores in injury time.

* Ritchie is a journalist and a former newspaper editor

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of the DFA