Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, it is said. This rationale is used as the justification for some of the inconsistent decisions and bizarre pronouncements made by governments everywhere, not least in SA.

People worldwide will have their own first-hand experiences of this, and all of it leaves most of us confused and grumpy. I heard the UK prime minister recently saying in a broadcast how the country had “come together” to deal with the crisis. Not actually, Boris — most people had stayed away from each other.

Perhaps Barack Obama summed it up best with his comment to the effect that, if nothing else, the pandemic has torn back the veil from the flimsy belief that those in charge know what they are doing. In fact, he continued, some of them are not even pretending to be in charge.

Through the ANC’s failure to address the social, housing and land issues effectively, the ruling party has created a rod for its own back regarding the number of people living in poorly structured townships and informal settlements.

These conditions required the resulting lockdown to be structured as a one-fits-all solution. Whether you live in a shack, on an isolated farm, or at an estate, “stay at home” is the overriding requirement.

Being able to maintain the social-distancing protocols is easy on a farm, or in most estates, especially those with golf courses, where space is one of the lifestyle attractions.

In a business sense it has become a bloodbath and few would now disagree that the cure is proving to be worse than the disease that it was set up to combat

However, even the ANC’s most disingenuous members would blanch at the thought of trying to relay the dual message, that if you are in a township such as Diepsloot you must stay at home whereas if you live at Pecanwood Country Club, Hartbeespoort, you will be allowed to walk, jog, or even play golf, because social distancing in these environments is easier to achieve, even when you are outdoors, than it is under the strictest “house arrest” in overcrowded places such as the townships.

Therefore, wherever you live and irrespective of the individual circumstances, the same "stay a home" requirements were applied to everyone.  

SA is generally acknowledged to be one of the world’s most unequal societies. The country’s lockdown has further highlighted these glaring social disparities, while also being one of the most severe.

Too draconian many have said, with, during level 5 and most of level 4, 95% of business activity shut down, no house moves, night-time curfews, no going outdoors — even for exercise other than in a recently introduced period when everyone is allowed to squeeze out from 6am-9am, no alcohol or tobacco sales allowed, and so on.

In a business sense it has become a bloodbath and few would disagree that the cure is proving to be worse than the disease that it was set up to combat. The poor sections have been surrounded by what has proved to be the not-so-benign presence of the SA National Defence Force and the police, both under orders to enforce the lockdown regulations.

Golf estates represent a niche in the golf market and residential housing sector. In all of this uncertainty and discomfort, has it been a case that another set of rules have been in play behind closed doors, for those fortunate enough to live in the parallel universe of the country’s estates?

Happily, it would largely seem not to be the case. The consensus from the golf estates is that most homeowners and residents  are complying with the requirements of the lockdown, but they have also said it is the police’s job to actually enforce the lockdown regulations.

The estates I have contacted have been communicating regularly with homeowners and residents. The focus of the messages has been on the need to comply with the regulations. None have empowered their security firms to “police” the requirement and have relied on residents and homeowners to “do the right thing”.

“Our members and homeowners trust the judgment and abilities of both management and the board,” Pecanwood Country Club GM Morné Botha said.

“This trust is reciprocated in that we have an equal confidence and trust that our residents will adhere to the laws, whatever personal opinions they might have of them.

“Trust and respect are the bedrock of any successful community, which is what has been developed at Pecanwood. This type of trial has put us all to the test and we are very pleased to say that, as a community, we have not been found wanting,” Botha said.

It seems to be a case of so far so good. Let us hope that the restraint displayed to date, by most South Africans, is not squandered by a continuation of the opaque decision-making and inconsistencies that have characterised too many areas of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Correction: May 25 2020

An earlier version of this article incorrectly suggested that people were playing golf during the lockdown at Pecanwood Estate.