Conscience of a Centrist: Skip polls and save precious lives

Johannesburg – “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” This quote is often attributed to famed economist John Maynard Keynes, while some prefer it be credited to American economist Paul Samuelson.

Some have even said it ought to be ascribed to former prime minister of the UK Winston Churchill. It is not for me to settle this age-old debate.

The quote, regardless of its actual origin or banality, presents us with a timeless truth: There is nothing honorable about never changing your mind.

When reality changes, you need to update your position on issues accordingly, more so when it relates to public health.

The images coming from India over the past few days are gut-wrenching, and I do not just mean metaphorically.

India looks like a war zone where people are losing their lives to the invincible enemy.

The unfolding humanitarian crisis in India, a country with strong ties to South Africa, serves as an unwanted reminder that authorities might be forced to rethink the date of the local government elections, slated for October 27.

While it is hard for India’s governing elite to admit, the recent elections in the country did fan the spread of the second wave of Covid-19 in that country.

Assembly elections were held in the states of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, and the union territory of Puducherry in March and last month.

Available data suggest that West Bengal went through an excruciating surge between March 27 and April 29, a period when daily new cases in the state went up from about 800 to more than 17 000.

These are the facts that cannot be wished away, no matter how much politicians would make us believe.

With signs that South Africa might also see a surge in new cases, the time is not right to think of campaigns to woo voters when the unseen enemy is still with us and claiming lives.

On Wednesday, South Africa recorded more than 2 000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day for the first time since mid-February. President Ramaphosa must review the decision to have the elections this year when his administration has only provided vaccines to a fraction of the population.

Going ahead with elections will be a dereliction of duty.

The pursuit to win back lost metros for the governing party should not ignore science and facts.

A delay in the local government elections would not affront democracy; it would shore it up. Human life matters more than politics. We have everything to fear.

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