Image via Twitter: @DrZweliMkhize
Image via Twitter: @DrZweliMkhize
The most essential and critical challenge facing humanity right now is very simple, and it is not Eskom, the Zondo commission, free access to higher education or what prison guards have been getting up to with inmates in a prison in KwaZulu-Natal.
It is very obvious, and it has been almost entirely absent – deafeningly and conspicuously missing – from the news narrative in South Africa.
I have started to wonder whether there are nefarious discourse-bending actors at work, distracting the newsreader from something of rare and truly existential importance for humanity.
That story, obviously, is vaccines.
To say that South Africa has had a bad start to rolling out vaccines is not a news story, it is a truism. Of that we all know. But when it comes to the sheer extent of the fiasco, the reality is that the handling of this by Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has been nothing short of criminal. One can hope that at some point an enquiry will look into what has been done and more importantly not been done, but then we all know what happens to such Commissions.
The global vaccination effort is in full swing. More than 400 million shots have now been administered around the world. Israel, famously, is the first country to fully inoculate its population against COVID-19. Life in Tel Aviv is back to normal, masks are no longer needed. The US, a country that was a poster child for how not to handle a pandemic with well over half a million deaths, has been astonishing at rolling out vaccines at a current pace of around 2.5 million a day.
The UK too, after a disastrous 2020 which almost saw the complete collapse of its National Health Service, has been uncharacteristically efficient and effective at getting jabs into peoples arms. They are hoping to have fully inoculated the country by July.
According to Bloomberg, at this current rate the 70% of the world should be immunised in around 3 years.
And what of South Africa? According to Bloomberg, at our current rate of 4057 jabs per day we should expect the country to be immunised somewhere over a decade from now.
To give an illustration of how catastrophically and devastatingly useless this is, it is worth looking at some of the countries who have managed to handle this more effectively than us.
In a peer analysis, some countries we usually look down on with patronising disdain are by comparison models of efficiency. Brazil and Turkey, neither of which we consider to be in any way more effective, wealthier or better run than SA, have both immunised more than 12m people, or almost a third of our population. That could be us. We could be almost out of this pandemic.
Chile, also a close peer, has done even better at almost vaccinating 40% of its population.
But as one goes down the list the reality of the calamity becomes more apparent. Colombia, Argentina, Nepal, Pakistan, Morocco, Rwanda and Ghana have all vaccinated more of their citizens than South Africa.
Two points are worth pointing out. First, why are there not protests in the street? Why are people not calling for the head of the President or, at the very least, the Health Minister? This is clearly and categorically the most important job that they have; one, simple job which is vastly more important than any other, and at this, they have spectacularly failed. Why are the public and the media completely silent on this issue?
Second, there is absolutely no more time to waste. At the moment South Africa is in a blissful eye of the storm. Citizens are enjoying the last languidly beautiful days of summer with social media feeds full of carousing and lounging in the sun. This will not last. The third wave will be brutal, potentially the most devastating and destructive yet as new ultra-contagious variants besiege the country.
One can only hope at that point that we will realize how spectacularly the government has failed the people of South Africa.