An interesting aspect of the aptly named State of Disaster is that a significant number of whiteys have been klapped by the cops, roughed up and abused by the soldiers and told by the arsehole bureaucrats where, when and how they should conduct daily life. That's a new experience for whites but it was, of course, the ever-present reality of black South Africans for generations. Democracy in 1994 was supposed to make us all equal on this score by ending gratuitous state violence, but it hasn't quite worked out like that. The middle class – of which whites form a...
An interesting aspect of the aptly named State of Disaster is that a significant number of whiteys have been klapped by the cops, roughed up and abused by the soldiers and told by the arsehole bureaucrats where, when and how they should conduct daily life.

That's a new experience for whites but it was, of course, the ever-present reality of black South Africans for generations. Democracy in 1994 was supposed to make us all equal on this score by ending gratuitous state violence, but it hasn't quite worked out like that.

The middle class – of which whites form a steadily decreasing proportion – lives a reality that is substantially different from that of the mostly black poor. They have been spared the indignities and abuses that are still today visited upon the indigent and, consequently, have been able to indulge a political apathy.

Wealth is truly colour-blind. No matter how despised one's ethnicity, to have money is to have some insulation against the harsh edges of a poorly trained and incompetent police force, a thuggish and ill-disciplined military and an indolent public service.

But with lockdown, the mask of benign governance has dropped. The state's visceral tendencies towards control and authoritarianism have slipped into suburbia.

This has had the salutary effect of sparking some resistance. The people are gatvol. And they're doing the one thing that any government should be terrified of: they are en masse defying the law.

That is why when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that lockdown would ratchet down another notch, it was greeted with a yawn. Most South Africans had already moved straight from Level 5 to Level 0.

After all, in much of the country lockdown never happened. In cheek-to-jowl shacks and small homes with extended families, isolation was always going to be impossible.

Effective lockdown has been largely a suburban experience, initially self-enforced by a people who understood and agreed with the policy. And when the middle classes eventually got a little uppity, footage of burly police officers trying to drag an "arrested" toddler from its father's arms, or a weeping jogger manhandled into a patrol van, quickly restored obedience.

But regulatory pettiness and ministerial heavy-handedness has squandered that cooperation. At best, there is now a surly and waning compliance. There's not a smoker that I know of who has been deterred from getting illegal tobacco. The same with alcohol.

The black market tobacco industry was already established before the ban. It is now thriving, with expensive, low-quality products.

When the ban is lifted, the illegal sellers will, with their newly improved distribution channels, switch to better-quality products priced more cheaply than the highly taxed legal ones.

Booze bootleggers are less likely to survive. Unless cross-border smugglers can bring in recognised brands at a lower cost than the bottle store offerings, the alcohol black market is a temporary phenomenon.

And the government must be praying that the two-fingered salute it's getting is going to be, similarly, a temporary phenomenon. No government can indefinitely contain a sustained and widespread public rebelliousness.

So, kudos to Ramaphosa's administration. Through hubris and a stream of stupid regulations, the ANC has in just two months turned millions of habitually law-abiding South Africans into renegades and criminals.

Forget the 1994 schmaltz about the rainbow people of God. It is only now that we are at last united, as one learning to channel our inner anarchist.

At last we are one, finding our inner anarchist


William Saunderson-Meyer.

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