Pass the witblits and save us from the fools

22 March 2020 - 00:05
By , peter bruce AND Peter Bruce
A number of measures have been taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 in South Africa.
Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai A number of measures have been taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19 in South Africa.

I would be interested in a credible survey of South African attitudes to the coronavirus. How many of us have heard of it and how many of us think it's a threat? You could add more questions, but those two came to mind after a family member went to a home affairs office in the Western Cape on Wednesday.

The place was relatively quiet and the queue moving along at a good clip. Until, that is, a man in front found that the biometric identity device at the office couldn't read his fingerprints.

Press harder, the woman at the counter suggested. Nothing. Rub your cheeks. Nothing. Try your ears. It worked.

What was happening was that when the man entered the office, he used the hand sanitiser sensibly provided. But it contained alcohol and had removed the oils from his fingers, so the fingerprint device couldn't read his print.

It was only by touching his face and, finally, his ear that he collected enough grease to have his fingerprint adequately captured.

It is such a South African story. Forget the colours or races involved (I don't know what they were): the chasm in attitude is breathtaking. The hand sanitiser is great. A person telling you to touch a device a hundred other people have touched and then telling you to touch your face and then your ear for some grease is not so great.

This happens everywhere, I'm sure. But I wonder what the woman behind the counter assumes or knows about this virus.

I have just heard that someone close to me, and who I spent time with over a wedding last week, is now positive for Covid-19 back in her home country. So my wife and I are isolating ourselves. Because we can afford to.

But God help the majority of people who can't. Go back to President Cyril Ramaphosa's stringent declarations last Sunday and they seem almost mild. In a way, we need to shut everything down. For two weeks, no trains, no planes, no retail, no schools, no universities. No activity of any kind. Martial law, if you like.

Suspend the JSE. Buy time. Get respirators to hospitals in the thousands — they are easy to make and SA is crammed full with plastics moulding capacity. We are latecomers to this thing but we are way more vulnerable to an epidemic than the countries of the north.

Our response has to be way more spartan than theirs.

And help us with the idiots. The adults who tested positive and refused to be quarantined were arrested. I hope they still are, and held for a lot longer than they are sick. They are a menace to society.

As is Pastor Bheki Ngcobo, who the Daily Dispatch in East London reported on Friday was insisting that “we will worship the Lord in numbers” over Easter in a few weeks' time.

The idiot pastor, said the newspaper, insisted that God is above presidents. “God knows more than everyone in this world,” it quoted him saying. “I trust God more than medical practitioners. I trust God more than the presidents of all countries.”

So, as if to prove Covid-19 is not the only virus brought here by foreigners, he'll gather many hundreds of people over Easter, just as the virus is hitting its stride here, unless a) he is immediately arrested and incarcerated for threatening to commit a crime that may injure people, or b) Julius Malema, who has, to the relief of the nation, backed Ramaphosa's mild crackdown, has a quiet word with him.

Only in SA, I tell you. From my small village we made our way too late to the nearest Dis-Chem in the town nearby. No hand sanitisers, no wipes, no masks, no meals to freeze at the Woolies, no bloody nothing. I wish I still smoked. At least there's wine and whiskey.

The big news late in the week is that a local distillery is selling hand sanitiser. I drive the kilometre out of town to the place and buy six small bottles.

They bristle with 75% alcohol, a helluva brew. It's basically a strong grappa. Keep the plastic bottle, the man says. We can always refill, but the little plastic spray containers are in short supply.

Perhaps there's a move for the government there. There's a thoroughly disreputable amount of alcohol produced and consumed in this country every day and the government should take a portion of it for a while and provide everyone with a viable sanitiser. Or free soap. Business can play its part.

Just out of town, I bought a bottle of their gin, too, just so I looked cool and not like the failed hoarder that I am.

I hope the grappa works.