Mr President, your vaccination ‘plans’ will not end our perpetual lockdown. We must do better to end this crisis.

Dear Fellow South Africans,

I do not envy our President.

Facing the COVID-19 crisis has been a challenge for all governments around the world, even for those with far greater resources. It must be tough for our President to face this crisis as the leader of a government that has spent past two decades looting instead of building a capable state and a thriving economy.

But my patience with the President and his corrupt and incompetent colleagues has all but worn off. More than a year into our perpetual lockdown, there is barely a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

In listening to the tedium of the President’s address last night, watching as it traversed the usual touchpoints, there was no sense that there is an end to this crisis anywhere on the horizon. Particularly, there is no plan to rollout the vaccine with speed – a crucial requirement to ending the pandemic.

To be fair, nobody is expecting the impossible from President Ramaphosa. The bar set by our government, over time, has become so low that South Africans would be willing to celebrate things which would be considered a given in most countries around the world.

But let us rate the President and his government against the commitments they made to us.

What was previously the plan and is being doggedly protected is the notion that 1.1 million frontline healthcare workers will be vaccinated by the end of March this year. It has taken 40 days to vaccinate 239 665 medical personnel (approximately 19%). This is an average of 5 991 vaccinations each day, the list of countries currently exceeding this include; Malawi, Kuwait, Mongolia and Uganda.

To meet phase 1 targets 30 879 medical personnel will need to be vaccinated every day starting tomorrow.

Despite this glaring fact, government says it will finish the vaccination of medical personnel in April and start the vaccination of 13 million South Africans in May under phase 2 – the elderly and those with co-morbidities. We are told it will finish in November.

To meet the phase 2 target, South Africa would need to vaccinate 61 905 people a day. Even if you believe this, and I do not, there is nothing that points to believe we will even have the supply to achieve these numbers. The President’s assurances to the contrary lack credibility given their performance to date.

The bottom line is that while other countries were prioritising vaccine procurement, our government was fretting over roasted chickens, beaches and open-toed shoes. Because of this failure we now have an entirely unvaccinated nation that will be subjected to lockdowns indefinitely.

I do not write to you to subject you solely to endless analysis. This appears to be well covered in opposition parties. I write to you to demonstrate how this could all change.

  • Step 1 – is to admit there is a problem and stop pretending that everything is fine.
  • Step 2 – is to develop a new plan that sets out concrete and feasible timelines for vaccination and then stick to them.
  • Step 3 – is to lockdown real supply of the vaccine, including allowing private sector procurement and distribution.
  • Step 4 – is to increase rollout centres and capacity to increase vaccination numbers in partnership with private sector partners, like Discovery, who alone have announced capacity to vaccinate over 50 000 people per day.
  • Step 5 – end the lockdown and get South Africa back to work and back to life as we once knew it.

I realise that putting it this way sounds simplistic, and I am the first to tell you that I do not have all the answers. I do, however, believe that decisive leadership must provide direction and then bring together the best minds in our country to design the plans and manage their execution.

If South Africans had received a plan like this last night, I suspect we would have graciously accepted giving up a few freedoms. The vast majority of South Africans are reasonable people, we understand there is a crisis and that lives hang in the balance.

Unlike South Africans, our government is not reasonable. It does not concede the absurdity of its plans and will not accept responsibility for the preventable deaths.

This is perhaps the most important thing for you to take notice of in 2021; a year into the pandemic, our government does not have the faintest idea of how it is going to vaccinate the South African public and end the lockdown.

This is why I have established a movement with the sole purpose of unseating the ANC as if our lives depend on it, because they do. 

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