Dear Mr President…

Gareth Cliff Rant

Dear President Ramaphosa,

I’m going to keep this brief, because I know you’re dealing with a lot:

We’ve all been ready to support you and your administration in your efforts to save lives from this pandemic. Even people like me, who have questioned the idea of a lockdown as the best response have decided to comply and do whatever we could to help. We set aside our concerns over the heavy-handedness of the police and army; we swallowed and accepted that poor people in informal housing would be crammed into their one-room dwellings for a month; we limited our trips to the shops and even accepted not being able to buy hot food (for whatever inexplicable reason).

When you couldn’t put your mask on we laughed and we were charmed to see that you were able to laugh at yourself too. For a time you won everyone over again. You yourself have said that it has taken much for people to give up their liberties, their right to be with family and friends and the ability to move freely around. Our patience and emotional state of affairs are on a knife-edge. We are losing hope.

Governments walk a fine line in times like these, where the regulations not only have to make sense, but also have to have significant buy-in from the public – otherwise people will break them, in big ways and small. South Africans are mostly compliant – but when you promise something and then break that promise, it makes us feel like we should break your regulations in return.

Many of us aren’t afraid of the virus anymore. It’s our health and we’ll take our chances, thank you. We ARE afraid of the havoc your lockdown is wreaking on the economy, on people’s lives and livelihoods. I see fewer and fewer explanations from ministers and more and more capricious, some would say spiteful, regulation. I’m not a smoker – I don’t like cigarettes at all – but when Minister Dlamini-Zuma announced that she was (after a consultation none of us believe happened) going to keep the ban on tobacco products in place, many of us (even the non-smokers) were ready to give her the middle finger – and start risking breaking the rules. There are more of us than there are police officers and soldiers, so if you piss enough people off, things get very hairy. I’m sure those advisers in the security cluster have mentioned that they can’t shoot us all or put us all in jail.

Your government, Sir, have not covered themselves in glory over the last 10 years. Some people in this country already have a taste of anarchy, where municipalities are bankrupt and there is no service delivery. They see no evidence that the ANC will fix parastatals, cronyism, kleptocracy and for once and for all cease their childish flirtation with outdated and failed socialist ideas. Your hold on power depends on people willing to comply with the rules – the same rules they expect you to comply with. Our patience grows thin, and in tandem your tax collection runs dry. When you speak of a social compact, it goes both ways. You have to take your boot off our throats.

When Moses told Pharaoh to let his people go, Pharaoh didn’t listen and there were plagues. We all know how that story went for Pharaoh. You have to start letting our people go Mr President, or this plague will be the least of our worries. Even Moses could tell you that.


  1. Amelia says:

    THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN SAYING FROM THE START. But the masses were COnVInceD hard lockdown was the way to go. The loan was the nail in the coffin. For me at least. Who exactly is going to pay back THAT money? We’re living off imaginary money, making a fraction of the income we could and should be making.

    I’ve made my peace with the fact that “only the strong will survive” if and when we face the virus. I’m livid that only the “political state” will survive if we stay in lockdown. Our work may not be essential for the survival of individuals, but it is essential for the survival of the country.

  2. Lorna says:

    Absolutely resonate with that. Well said G

  3. Janet Green says:

    End the lockdown. Give people their dignity back to earn a living for their families. Do the right thing Mr President, do not allow yourself to get manipulated by leaders from 1st World countries.

  4. Janet Green says:

    End the lockdown Mr President. Do the right thing before it’s too late.

  5. Petra De Wet says:

    Hi Gareth
    Loved your response to the president re the new regulations
    Can you not start a petition to the president that we can all sign ?

  6. Mel Lubbe says:

    This letter is wonderful and I commend you for writing it.

  7. Michael Power says:

    Dear Mr Cliff,

    My suggestion is that you read the single most important (and single most read) essay in English on this crisis. It is called ‘The Hammer and the Dance’ by Tomas Pueyo. He is a businessman from Silicon Valley and not an epidemiologist. Most of the top free-world politicians are now explicitly grappling with the precise issue he raises – and the essay is already 6 weeks old! The phrase ‘hammer and dance’ have become widely used in their deliberations as a result.

    Then please note that for the past two days – and this despite the lockdown here in SA, with all its many admitted shortcomings – we have moved into the extreme danger zone on the time-line of any pandemic: each day, our new infections have grown more than 5% of our existing total.

    Then I suggest you acquaint yourself with the unfolding catastrophe in Brazil, where the shutdown has been almost non-existent . Start with this article in the Washington Post. Suffice it to say that if Bolsonaro’s negligence has allowed over 1m Brazilians to become infected, the logic of the hands-off approach to this crisis will – literally – have found its graveyard.

    The SA Government has not been perfect in its response to this crisis. It would be hard in the circumstances not to. But outside the South African echo chamber, it is widely noted that – given our limited national resources – our response has been amongst the best in the world.

    p.s. Have you asked anyone who knows why cigarettes were returned to the banned list? The answer makes the move 100% logical.

    Michael Power

  8. Lindy says:

    Good one Gareth! Way to go!
    I am a smoker and ready to break the law to get cigarettes… You have a national voice… Please make a noise for us smokers? Thank you…

  9. Cindy Naidoo says:

    Our President was firm and appeared to have matters in hand. After years of his party running amock with the coffers that could have built a strong and stabilized infrastructure I was prepared to support this new found sense of assertiveness and no nonsense approach I agree Mr Cliff it appears that these capricious nonsensical decisions made by our ministers are turning me back to a doubting Thomas as to just how capable this government is in leading us into a safe and somewhat stable country
    Ridiculous – no hot foods
    Ridiculous – no tobacco ps freely available underground
    Ridiculous – 3 hour exercise all squashed together outside
    Ridiculous – curfew
    Working in retail the decisions on what to buy equally preposterous such as selling ironing boards but no small appliances such as irons or kettles. No toys ridiculous no braai stands but could purchase accessories and charcoal No TVs God only knows why The product selection on what to sell had no thought attached No pies tell me why? No board games Initial stages no magazines. The list of nonsensical decisions shows me none of these ministers are actually applying common sense. What future draconian decisions await us

  10. Margie Adam says:

    The reason for lockdown is not stopping the virus, it is giving a country time to equip healthcare and respond in waves. We will probably all get COVID-19 at some point, but governments need to have sufficient medical nurses, doctors and ventilators to deal with the waves. For South Africans, yes, banning cigarettes might sound ridiculous but actually, it’s based on sound reasoning, because from what we in the Uk have experienced, you need healthy lungs to survive this motherf***er, also, if you don’t have enough ventilators, you need people with healthy lungs. It’s not entirely stupid. In fact, I think it is right. We are dealing with a different enemy here.

  11. Thank you for your blog to the President , we are all thinking along those lines but don’t have the ability to express them so clearly.

  12. Candi says:

    Thank you.. Like really thank you x

  13. Moses Sigasa says:

    The unbearable whiteness of hypocrisy

    So when poor black people, since day zero, get the shits beaten out of them by the state, you say nothing, because it does not directly affect you in the suburbs, far away from the brutality. When, for years, state-sponsored private-sector goons terrorise poor people – poor black people – from shack dwellers’ movements in KZN to unemployed people’s movements in Grahamstown and elsewhere, you say nothing. When poor black boys get hired, given angry red attire to wear to make them look like red ants, and go and attack poor people – poor black people – in the south of Joburg, and elsewhere, you say nothing.

    When cops overreach at the beginning of the lockdown and poor black people are the victims of their addiction to power, and their inability to prize moral authority above brute force, you say nothing.

    But when they come for your fucking Woolies chicken, your romantic walks in the park with your dogs, you suddenly want to write endless copy about the dangers of authoritarian creep and the continuities between apartheid and a neo-colonial post-apartheid state you had no interest in critiquing until your middle class comforts were ruptured.

    To add insult to fucking injury, you now INSINCERELY want to WEAPONISE the bodies of the poor black subjects (not citizens) that you ordinarily do not respect by now pretending we are all collectively and equally let down by a set of sometimes arbitrary lockdown regulations.

    No, boo, if you didn’t care last year about poverty and inequality, and the inherent violence of structural racism and injustice with deep colonial roots, including the unearned privileges you now do not enjoy having curtailed, then please spare us think pieces that inauthentically rehearse social solidarity you ordinarily do not live and breathe in your daily life.

    And of course isms like class-isms are cousins of other isms like sexism, which is why you cannot BEAR to blame Cyril Ramaphosa as the leader of a government founded on a constitutional principle known as ‘collective cabinet responsibility.’

    Your racism and misogyny do not become sophisticated because you profess love for Ramaphosa but skewer Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as if she has unique prerogatory powers to enact regulations.

    Your racism and misogyny are plain: Ramaphosa sounds like you so you “don’t mind him”. “She” irks you because, well women in leadership often do, not least when “she” sounds “rural”, now has the audacity of speaking Zulu during media briefings and is “the former wife of Jacob Zuma”. Your cultural and aesthetic disgust- grounded in racist and sexist tropes – cannot be discounted on account of posters of Ramaphosa in your bedroom.

    As you were.- enjoy

    Writing by a true Citizen of South Africa.

  14. Kirsten Kemp says:

    Hi Gareth
    I think you’re great
    Just be careful

    Some freedom fighters like myself nearly threw in the towel

    Some us are trying our asses off to reconcile and make it work

    Its not easy to achieve freedom for all but I can’t believe that u have such an amazing platform that u should join US in our fight for freedom

    I am white. And I celebrate it
    Don’t worry I still like u


  15. Shaun Gathorne-Gillham says:

    Hi Gareth
    Absolutely awesome piece – you hit the nail on the exact centre of the head!

    Now – how does one convert the little first world thinking we have in this country into concrete, positive change???

    I, for one among many, am completely fed up with living in this state of damnation governed by abject incompetence and ineptitude. Who will rid the country of its bloated, obese, self-serving administration of Takers and bring back the Makers . Who will put a stop to the politics of envy which has been ingrained into our society by the likes of the ANC and that Julius Dilemma, among others, who still – very sadly and shockingly – have not figured out that their 1950’s Marxist ideologies will simply not work. Keep the pressure on Mr Cliff!!

  16. Steven says:

    Hi Gareth

    I have heard a lot of different opinions regarding your vlog which I much say I resonate with because of many reasons. I do not know which are true and which are just someone blowing off steam and using you as a whipping post.
    One of the thing I hear is many have turned this into a race focus. What disturbs me is what the hell is wrong with the rest of the people. You are entitled to say what you want you have opinions and feelings and observations. You did not approach this as a race issue however if there are those that are dong so then they have the misguided and confused approach and they are the racists. If they are so moved about issue of the black public masses suffering why the hell can they not report on these issues in a manner that does not focus on race but people suffering die to the lock-down. They all have cellphone and cameras and if they are to lazy or full of S# and just want to gain traction by focusing on selected comments so be it. You commented on an issue and maybe you should just do the same the government does, ignore those that take objection. If there are individuals who take offense so what. They can report if they want on any situation but do not. They are opportunists, don’t give them airtime.

    They and others can report on the situation and focus on the problem the ANC not those highlighting the problem

    Keep on with the good work.

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