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Simon Lincoln Reader looks back at political and social events in South Africa this week. He unpicks what he says was a carefully orchestrated deflection of blame by the ruling party. A coincidental trip to Switzerland by local billionaire Johann Rupert, who received a Covid-19 vaccine, was the perfect distraction from the disastrous vaccine procurement failure at home. Under increasing pressure from all sides, Cyril Ramaphosa used the World Economic Forum to point another finger at wealthy nations, accusing them of vaccine nationalism and hoarding. Reader says the political climate is perfect for the ANC’s blame game. – Melani Nathan
Shouting at Johann Rupert is a distraction
By Simon Lincoln Reader*
With the exception of North Sentinel Island and some parts of the Amazon, there wasn’t a place on earth left unmolested by that gorgonzola-ey discharge of woke splattered by the Biden administration. But funnily enough, it wasn’t this that prompted criticism of Johann Rupert’s supposed vaccine tourism, rather it was the Swiss left – in particular, a woman called Flavier Kleiner, who evidently woke up one morning in the not too recent past and asked, “Ich frage mich, wie die Welt eine Schweizer Version dieses spastischen Katastrophengoblins Greta Thunberg erhalten würde?” [translation]
Local SA critics of Rupert appear to have forgotten his donation of a R1bn made to the country last year, his record of philanthropy, his environmental advocacy and his contributions to SASSA accounts; international ones don’t appear to understand that as Swiss taxpayer (over 30 years), he is perfectly entitled to vaccine at the instruction of a Swiss physician.
The condemnation appears to be oblivious to circumstances that, observed soberly, prompt disbelief. The Solidarity Fund assumed responsibly for the Covax donation – the same fund that Rupert donated $66m to. It could be argued he’s already paid for his own jab, so if it is not forthcoming, why can’t he go elsewhere? Why is he not the one pissed off here?
The timing of this non-story is unfortunate for the ANC: it broke when anger was mounting against the government for its breathtaking incompetence on vaccine orders. Not only was this the most inappropriate time in the party’s history to behave like a habitually delinquent tenant, the ANC’s typically secretive behaviour has infuriated opposition parties, trade union, the international community – and now led to scrambled excuses.
Its routine for the South African government to postpone (I’m assured this has improved since the Zuma administration’s appalling tardiness). Whilst this is – to an extent – forgivable, the President’s decision to distract from his own ineptitude with remarks at the World Economic Forum involving the privilege versus deprivation/north versus south “vaccine nationalism” hysteria was stupid, unnecessarily belligerent, opportunistic and utterly unconvincing.
But neither did they appear from nowhere. They were choreographed; they sought to align with the world view of the party’s international sympathisers – the European and UK left – many of whom happen to be frequent guests at the WEF. Disguised in the spaces between words of his address was a plea for friends “let’s pretend like it was Wembley 1988 again” – nothing more than a reminder of this ANC’s pathological reluctance to accountability.
The social justice activists quickly wheeled out by sections of the South African media to support Ramaphosa’s position failed (if the judiciary/Zondo Commission worked as studiously as SA media SJWs, Ace Magashule would already be hammering his 5th dog tag of the morning in the prison workshop). The overwhelming response to Ramaphosa was negative (refreshingly honest), and indicates the rawness of the near decade of state capture – that the balance of perceived justice has shifted from the expectation of apartheid reparations to the expectation of consequences for nine wasted years.
This would horrify some ANC profiles (Duarte, Supra, NDZ) whose entire purpose exists to widen fault lines and profit off division. But they have Ramaphosa to blame here: in Oct 2019, he told former FT editor (and notorious gossip) Lionel Barber that the nine wasted years had witnessed the theft of R1tr. Barber posted these revelations to his 80k + followers on Twitter, as well as an audience gathered at the FT Africa conference.
There is reason to fear a more sinister motivation behind Ramaphosa’s projection. He said what he did knowing that views of people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her friends (despite being outed as establishment frauds) are increasingly mainstream, and would side with his interpretation of events more than they would with a reality – and record – of ineptitude. It is a theme emphasised this week, when the United States President signed another executive order essentially rebuking anyone for calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” – despite geographical accuracy. This was all that was needed to ensure that the CCP are never held to account for the damage inflicted upon the world.
- Simon Lincoln Reader works and lives in London. You can follow him on Substack.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.