Mike Abel, Founder & Chief Executive of M&Saatchi Abel  shares the following with us:

We signed up for the President to be our conductor and all of us to be the orchestra – not for Government to be the border collie and us to be their sheep…

When our early lockdown was announced, I was in full support of it. I remain so.

When the extension was announced, I was skeptical of the profound economic impact, but still largely supportive of the decision, as the science and data were informing us more every day, on this unknown predator #Covid_19 – and there was indeed no point wasting the brutal 3 weeks of initial lockdown if the following 2 weeks would further entrench our early-mover-advantage against this unseen enemy.

I have always been an outspoken advocate of that which makes sense, and in equal or greater measure, an adversary against nonsense. We are seeing a lot of the latter now emerging and I wish to challenge it.

So, not to be misinterpreted by anyone, I am wholly supportive of this 5 week lockdown if it gives our health services the ability to better confront the inevitable deluge that’s coming our way in infections and hospitalization.

It’s an enormous sacrifice all South Africans have made to protect a very small percentage of our population who are most at risk – but entirely right, necessary and humane.

But, after these 5 weeks we need to get going. With vigor.

And before these 5 weeks end, some decisions by Government need to be urgently relooked and adjusted…

We all have our canaries in the mine. The thing that triggers us into realizing all is not as it should be. My canary, in this instance, is a hot Woolies chicken pie that has now been placed firmly on the Government’s dangerous goods list. I thought it was just a pie…

There is a fine line between asking a democratic population to join you in a Herculean effort to stop an ill-understood pandemic, to becoming an iron-fisted nanny or even authoritarian State. And we need to ensure our Government stays on the right side of that line – as happens in any democracy.

We have not lost our voice nor our rights people. This can only happen with our permission.

Now, I well understand the need to close the in-dining aspect of restaurants, as it is lockdown after all, but I have never understood the need to stop takeaways if social distancing occurs or if the food can be brought out to a car.

Similarly, it is ridiculous for home delivery of restaurant food to be closed as the very nature of it, reduces people shopping, helps the elderly and immuno-compromised in getting food and keeps part of the economy and employment going as a result.

Whatever the number of people working is, in keeping this food offering going, it is significantly smaller than the number of people it will help to stay at home and get their food. It’s a proven way of “thinning the herd” and that is why governments around the world, China included, have actually asked food delivery businesses to step up their efforts.

Similarly, to stop people buying hot food at their supermarket, when they are already out shopping is idiotic. Why on earth is picking up a pie, a roast chicken or ready-made bolognaise going to increase your chances of getting the virus? This is authoritarian behaviour as it is fundamentally illogical and exceeds the mandate in my view, of a State intervention.

I fully support the hugely inconvenient banning of alcohol sales over this time, as although I really enjoy a daily beer or glass of wine, the harsh reality of alcohol is it reduces ones inhibitions, which in a poorer South African context particularly, can lead to domestic violence. It’s a proven fact.

We cannot have people, in confined spaces, who are struggling to survive, being drunk.

The world over, domestic abuse has tragically risen over this period. It was sadly inevitable given people with a pre-existing tendency towards violence, now being locked down with others. They cannot be drinking on top of this.

I have no tolerance for any of these decisions being made by Ministers where it fits their religious beliefs, prejudices or predilections. Only if it makes sound, logical sense.

None of us should lose this filter and none of us should give up our free rights as enshrined in our Constitution.

Another crazy example. E-commerce has a huge role to play in giving people the opportunity to stay home and get stuff delivered to them. I cannot fathom why the Government has drawn up their essential goods list because what may be essential to one family, may be entirely irrelevant to another.

For a painter not to be able to buy their paints, brushes and canvases over this period is ridiculous. It supports their living. I know one who currently can’t do precisely that which keeps the wolf from the door. For someone not to be able to buy a microwave when their one breaks over lockdown is non-sensical. There is simply no logic in it – and the list goes on.

So, I continue to support our President and our Health Minister in their valiant efforts to prepare the health system for the Covid onslaught. That is all that lockdown has done.

It has slowed down spread, simply to buy time. It has not killed the virus. It has not abated. We don’t have herd immunity yet. It has only bought time to get our ducks in a row in dealing with it.

And when this lockdown ends in 2 weeks, which it must, in order to get the economy going and people earning a living again, we will still have to ensure degrees of social distancing, obsessive hand washing, mask wearing etc until such time as irrefutable data tells us it’s subsided or we have a proven treatment or vaccine.

It’s the elderly and immuno-compromised, and those who interact with them, who will need to remain vigilant.

For everyone else we will need to put our economy and efforts into overdrive. We went into Covid with the SA economy on its knees, we were downgraded to junk status early into lockdown. It will now take a massive Public : Private partnership to help us emerge from this crisis. For State to partner business and individuals in rebuilding our economy and helping those most in need.

Government must not confuse this with being given any additional rights nor privileges than they had prior to Covid.

Work with us and we’ll do incredible things together – even make miracles happen. But do not confuse this crisis with an ability to dictate to us. We are a democracy and our rights are constitutionally enshrined – and we will hold you fully accountable to that 



Written By:  Mike Abel