Increasing numbers of South Africans are beginning to feel the pain of many years of state capture, government ineptitude, other forms of corruption - some still ongoing - and the more recent Covid-19 lockdowns.
They are running out of cash to pay bills and indulge in the things they had become accustomed to while they had regular incomes; everything that went wrong in the country seemed too far away from their immediate surrounding and concerns.
Now, as many begin to exhaust the little savings they had and the payouts they received after being retrenched from their jobs or losing their businesses, panic begins to get hold of them as they contemplate the treacherous long, dry, stretch between December and end of January.
Those in consulting services are used to this annual dry stretch and always try to make provision for it. But this year is different, almost without precedence in recent memory. Very few have been able to generate the kind of income during the various levels of lockdown that would enable them to put money aside to see them through the December-January period, now starring us the eyes.
Depending on where one sits, blame for where we now find ourselves can be placed on many things, from the most obvious causes mentioned above to others, like businesses simply going bust for operational reasons and being forced to retrench some or all of their employees. What is clear, however, is that South Africa is hurting and so are increasing numbers of South Africans.
Starting during a Zuma administration characterised by widespread misgovernance and weakening and repurposing of many state institutions to benefit the ulterior motives of a criminal cabal, South Africa's tax revenue has progressively fallen short of estimates year after year.
This has made it hard for government to meet its many obligations to South Africans, especially the poorest of the poor who live in municipalities led by corrupt and incompetent political deployees.
We can also argue about whether government has done enough to create the kind of environment needed for market confidence to be regained so that private business can make long-term investments in South Africa, assured that there would be no surprise political moves that would put their investment interests in jeopardy. The longer government talks about economic reforms with nothing to show in terms of implementation, the harder it will remain for its bona fides to be taken seriously.
- Solly Moeng | The South African dream, deferred
It doesn't help that President Ramaphosa has, once again, taken to media microphones to talk about hundreds of billions of rands having been raised through his third investment conference with nothing to show of it, in term of job creation. If so much money has been pledged by the private sector over the past three years, with Ramaphosa's speech writers ensuring that he mentions a good percentage of the funded projects already having been rolled out, why is it that the country's official unemployment numbers have risen, not dropped?
Could it be that, as many observers suspect, many of the investment pledges are done under emotional duress, as PR stunts to look good in front of government, by saying what government wants to hear? Perhaps the truth lies in what some business persons have been reported to have said in safe spaces, that one would be a fool to commit long-term funds to a several times sovereign ratings junked country?
As increasing numbers of South Africans face a bleak festive period in 2020, unsure of whether they will have all the basics - especially food and other daily necessities - to keep their children and other loved ones who depend on them in healthy mind spaces, a surge in Covid-19 figures seems to be happening in several hotspots around the country. Government knows that for both economic and political reasons, the country cannot afford a return to a lockdown situation - irrespective of the level of such a lockdown.
There would be chaos and the risk of civil unrest, were a lockdown to be announced without anther stimulus package. And we know what happens in South Africa whenever multibillion-rand projects get announced by any ANC-led administration. The whole things quickly turns into a feeding frenzy for the politically connected rent seekers, enabled by their friends inside the system.
It has happened too many times in the past, starting with the notorious - and still unresolved - arms deal in the mid-1990s, to more recent PPE tender corruption. There is no reason to believe it wouldn't happen again.
Government has its work cut out for it to announce - so that we can scrutinise - the raft of economic reforms it keeps talking about implementing and to effectively combat the high levels of crime and impunity in its ranks. But, where they can, South Africans must learn to move ahead without government in order to avoid being forever caught up in the endless internecine wars within the governing African National Congress.
Social justice NGOs must be supported, enabled to feed and comfort more people over the coming months, as the profile of people desperately needing assistance changes. They now come in all colours and can be found in all parts of South Africa. Many of the nouveau-poor will be too proud, shy, or afraid to openly ask for assistance because they find themselves in unchartered territories as banks and other lenders knock harder on their doors, threatening to confiscate cars, houses, and other cherished personal belongings from South Africans who no longer have the means to pay for the basics they have accustomed to and maintain their dignity.
More than any other time in our post-apartheid history, we have to stand together and demonstrate that Ubuntu knows no racial or class affiliation and that it is not just a dead or dying concept. If we fail to stand with the weakest amongst us when they need us the most, who will do so, and what else makes us South African?