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Sport, arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: VELI NHLAPO
Sport, arts & culture minister Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: VELI NHLAPO

On a day when the deputy president was out and about, having returned from Russia with love and a return to health from an illness almost as mysterious as that of Jacob Zuma, it was heartening and a little weird to hear the minister of sport and culture telling South Africans that if they get vaccinated they can watch sport live in stadiums. 

When? Ah, well, let’s see. 

“Back to play, it’s in your hands,” said Nathi Mthethwa, who was wearing a T-shirt that was neither natty nor flattering. “As we have been driving through the message here, it will depend on how many people have vaccinated. The time frame would be what their hands give all of us.” 

So, it’s not me, it’s you. I like the campaign, but, man, it’s awfully late. Why weren’t they pushing this in 2020 or earlier this year as they dillied and dallied on the vaccine roll-out. A carrot and stick approach would have worked a hell of a lot better than poorly conceived bans and arbitrary punishments.

The country would be further along the path to a sense of whatever will be more normal than it is now. I’ve pushed vaccinations, helping my cleaner find a place to get her jab. She’s from Zimbabwe and didn’t know if her work permit would allow her to be vaccinated.

People were not properly made aware of what was possible, how it would help their lives in a pandemic be a little easier. And then there are the great unvaccinated like antimasker Zuma. When his followers were kicking off in front of his firepool, he said he had not been for the vaccine despite qualifying for it.

His apologist and spinner in chief, Mzwanele Manyi, said: “The president is not going to answer that question. It is important to do a bit of research about an issue with a mask when you have a medical condition. The fact that the president is not wearing a mask might very well be a medical condition, which is a confidential thing he cannot disclose.”

 Zuma hasn’t disclosed a lot, Mzwanele, which is why he is in so much trouble. Tennis player Gilles Simon of France didn’t get vaccinated because he was not “very scared of the Covid”.

“Basically, I really didn’t want to [get vaccinated]. I’m not very scared of the Covid, actually,” said Simon. “My basic philosophy is: if you’re afraid of it, you get vaccinated; if not, no. It remains a choice ... The point is that you are being forced everywhere to get vaccinated. I am one of those who dragged their feet a bit and who will end up doing so.” 

Man, he must have been mad when his coach tested positive when they arrived in New York for the US Open and a close contact and  he had to isolate for 10 days, which messed up his tournament.

Novak Djokovic is antivaxxer, his wife believes in the conspiracy theory about the link between the virus and 5G. Some 90% of NFL players have been vaccinated, but many Premier League players haven’t got the jab, including many at Manchester United.

Why? Perhaps Jonathan Liew of the Guardian puts it best. “Much of the research on the antivaxx movement has focused on political disengagement, the fraying bond of trust between many governments and citizens. In the popular imagination, the prototypical western antivaxxer is a sort of fringe lunatic, a village idiot, perhaps even a political extremist. But the vaccine sceptics of professional sport remind us that radicalisation and myth cut across boundaries of privilege and socioeconomics.” 

Antivaxxers will tell you they do their own research by quoting people who haven’t done any research. They will tell you it was made too fast, without understanding how it was made and how the vaccines that came before it gave the development of the Covid jab wings.

Andy Murray is a wise voice in all of this. “Ultimately I guess the reason why all of us are getting vaccinated is to look out for the wider public,” he said. “We have a responsibility as players that are travelling across the world, to look out for everyone else as well. I’m happy that I’m vaccinated. I’m hoping that more players choose to have it in the coming months.” 

More players, more spectators, more live sport. It’s a simple thing.


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