THERE’S an old saying, of unknown origin but popularised by Mark Twain: ‘There are lies, damn lies … and statistics’. Each day in this world of pandemic we are bombarded by figures and graphs. They look very precise and authoritative, but like all statistics they require careful and subtle interpretation.

Unfortunately, care and subtlety (with some exceptions) are not characteristic of our government. The command and control mind-set based on the ANC’s deeply entrenched patriarchy mixed with a dose of Stalinist heritage is epitomised by Bheki Cele. He reportedly believes that humanity is about to be wiped out unless his directives are obeyed. His manner would do justice to the police minister of the very worst banana republic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa should be deeply worried about the attitudes and utterances of some of his ministers.  The use of fear and authoritarianism will work up to a point to control a public health crisis. But beyond that only persuasion and reason will have lasting effect. There are already signs of deep unease among all communities and classes about lockdown regulations and Cele’s recent threat to revert to level 5 if South Africans do not ‘behave’ is a sign of someone out of his depth. Ultimately, no number of boots and guns on the streets will compel compliance with irrational directives.