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It is time for the President to open the cupboard for all to see

By Howard Feldman

Do not think of the music from Jaws. Think rather of something light and playful and uplifting. Because that’s how the now viral video begins. The setting is Clifton 2nd beach. It’s summer, the sky is cobalt blue, the water is azure and the scene is summer serene. The camera pans to a baby seal frolicking in the surf. A child plays nearby, enamored by the waves and the sand.

Before the viewer has time to “awwe”, the scene turns sinister. If there was music, it changes abruptly. Short harsh notes. Discord. The tension is raised as before our eyes the seal morphs into an angry and aggressive beast.

As though possessed.

The situation is now dangerous, with the pinniped turning to attack the child. Adults rush to the rescue, pulling him to safety. Only once away from the seal do we realise that we had been holding our breaths, fully aware that this story could have ended terribly. With barely enough time to recover, we see the rascal eyes its next victim. A woman bather, who once again escapes serious harm.

The video ends. And we are left stunned.

Down the coast, in Plettenburg Bay, the shark watchers are busy. Following two fatal shark attacks, a system was set up to ensure the safety of bathers. Warning signs had been posted on the beaches, shark update groups created on WhatsApp and Facebook, and shark bite boxes, with a phone number to call in the event of a shark attack place on selected beaches.

According to the shark attack notice, it is imperative to call the number provided. If one convinces the phone operator that indeed a shark has attacked, they will, at their discretion, share the combination on the lock that protects the items inside. The victim will then, and only then be able to access the lifesaving items. The content of these boxes remains a mystery and provided hours of speculation for beachgoers.

If ever there was a metaphor for the situation in which South Africa now finds itself, it is this video. And it has been well established that nothing makes South Africans happier, aside from electricity, than a good metaphor.

Because while everyone watched out for the sharks which they assumed presented a danger, it was the baby seals that turned and attacked. Whilst systems, communication and various scenarios were catered for, no one paid any attention to the seemingly innocent babies who frolicked amongst us.

Which only shows that we never really know where our next bite is coming from. It also illustrates that what we might think are our biggest danger might not be, and the very thing that we assume will present no danger, could be the very thing that bites us in the ankles.

South African list of sharks is seemingly endless. While in the nineteen seventies and eighties it might have been the “Great whites” who presented the gravest danger, today the list includes all species. It comprises of corrupt politicians, ineffective leaders, crime bosses and state-run enterprises.

Whereas most South Africans would list Eskom as the biggest danger to the country, it would be a mistake to ignore the less glaring ones. Education, economic growth and healthcare remain as dangerous and to ignore them, is to place the country in peril.

President Cyril Ramaphosa over the weekend listed the priorities for his party and for the country. None are a surprise because none are new. Many of the concerns are a direct result of the corruption of his party matched only by their ineffectiveness.

It is time for the President to give the country the combination to the shark attack box. It is time for him to open the cupboard for all to see. To allow the people on the beach to tend to their wounds, to heal so that they can deal with the lesser dangers that are nipping at their ankles in shallow water,

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