Mbak in time: even in a disaster we get a Fiks of our old ...

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Mbak in time: even in a disaster we get a Fiks of our old bungling ways

But despite Mbalula and Cele, it could be worse. A lot worse. We could be poor old Turkmenistan

Columnist
Fikile Mbalula has always had the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The mask slips Fikile Mbalula has always had the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Image: Sunday Times

Bless that Fikile Mbalula. After a week of disorienting honesty and excellence from health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize it was starting to feel that we were all slipping into a terrifying parallel universe in which ANC ministers actually know what they’re doing. And then along came Fiks, and suddenly everything feels much more familiar.

Of course, Fiks didn’t do it all by himself. The past week has reminded us of just how dangerous it can be to have a police force headed up by someone with the skills and worldview of Bheki Cele.

But Mbalula has always had the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and on Wednesday he was back to his worst best, first organising a huge photo op for himself at Noord Taxi Rank (essentially an illustrated guide on how to get social distancing catastrophically wrong) to announce that taxis can be 100% full if passengers wear masks, before recanting a few hours later and lowering the figure to 70%.

The lower figure, Mbalula insisted, was “final”. I look forward to tomorrow’s final final figure, and next week’s final final final one.

To be fair, however, Fiks’s self-aggrandising outing on Wednesday wasn’t the least helpful thing the ruling party has done in the past few days. That honour goes to the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association in KwaZulu-Natal, which, according to SowetanLIVE, wants its members to “come out and reinforce our law-enforcement agencies in this self-sacrificing task of preventing the further spread of coronavirus”.

Random dudes in uniform with no training in how to tackle a pandemic or how to deal with anxious civilians, claiming to be acting for the state? What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, this won’t happen: nobody in the ANC wants to see the bizarre sight of an ANC government arresting and jailing members of MK en masse. Even now that branch will be getting an e-mail from Pretoria, thanking them for their patriotism and urging them, in the spirit of shared struggle and continued revolution, to sit down and shut up.

Turkmenistan’s president, one Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, is a part-time rapper and DJ whose previous attempt at tackling the virus was to recommend a book he wrote about medicinal plants.

Yes, the old ANC is trying hard to remind us what life was like until very recently, but since we’ve got bigger things to worry about right now, let me not dwell on the party any more. On the contrary, let me express my thanks to those politicians currently doing a good job, and my profound gratitude that I am living in SA right now and not in Turkmenistan.

That country, you see, has just made it illegal to say the word “coronavirus”. This brilliant intervention is the brainchild – well, the cranial spawn – of its president, one Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, a part-time rapper and DJ whose previous attempt at tackling the virus was to recommend a book he wrote about medicinal plants. I’m not making any of this up. Turkmenistan is utterly screwed.

We are not. Here, we have a government not only willing to speak the name of the virus but to roll out extraordinary measures to limit its spread. For that, I’m genuinely grateful. Even if it comes, inevitably, with Cele and Fiks.