Monday in Grahamstown

Ironic that Freedom Day in South Africa (yesterday) was celebrated at a time of severely curtailed civil liberties. Apart from the “world-standard except Sweden”

Lockdown measures, it is illegal for me to:
– Take my dogs for a walk on the sports field adjacent to my home.
– Purchase cigarettes or alcohol.

For the record, we are loving Lockdown. The opportunity for simple pleasures. The peace from a sometimes frenetic pace of life. The time to just be.

Granted we do have:
– Ability to generate income from home.
– Garden to run around.
– Friends with oversized wine-cellars.
– WiFi to connect with adult children held hostage in other provinces.
I acknowledge the privilege. Most importantly we are not reliant on government food parcels. Food parcels layered with graft. Those traitors should be shot at dawn.

Welcome to Level 5 Lockdown Day 32 in Grahamstown.

On 1 May (Workers Day, more irony) a percentage of people in specific industries may go back to work. For the rest it’s BAU Lockdown Level 4 and a long way from freedom.

Remember the SA government is planning a September peak of this pandemic. A pandemic with a grand count of one case in Grahamstown. Quite a social experiment by a government that has, to put it kindly, done little to inspire confidence and trust over the past 15 years. A government adept at graft but less adroit at building and managing health care systems. Hence the need for stalling social and economic life in a fashion without parallel.


The bad news for Grahamstown (and surrounds) is that Level 4 Lockdown will barely make a dime’s worth of difference to our economy. We are an Education Hub, Centre of the Arts, and Tourism destination. The rest of our economy feeds off these three industries. Industries that don’t feature at all in the meagre lifting of restrictions. Refer pictograph attached. It appears gatherings of people is taboo until Lockdown is totally lifted. This likely takes us to well after September. Chew on that for a spell.
The high levels of compliance and complicity by citizens in the Petri dish of this social experiment is deeply intriguing. Seems fear is at the heart of it. Fear of being arrested (or branded a social pariah) for walking dogs on a deserted field. Fear that children (unless chained to home) will quietly contract this ‘flu and become Granny Killers. Fear that planned future events will fail and further burden the economic hardships being suffered by (just about) everyone. Fear that our Pre-Covid-19 way of life may be lost forever.

Firstly, we need to accept that Covid-19 is coming whether we like it or not. A friend in the Netherlands has five children and an elderly mother-in-law. They’ve all had it as have most of their friends.

On the pre-Covid way of life. If this is a concern I can only encourage you to get over it and move on. The world will never be as it was and Grahamstown is in severe trouble. We need to quickly innovate and reinvent ourselves. Hopefully our educators are fast becoming world experts in online learning. The National Arts Festival made an early call to digitise Festival this year. Good for them and good for the Arts but about as useful as tits on a bull to the people of Grahamstown. Not only is the economic opportunity lost but Festival is woven into the social fabric of this town. For 46 years residents have planned and schemed in anticipation of Fest. For 46 years townsfolk have immersed themselves in Fest and profited from it. Most importantly, for 46 years Fest has provided a beacon of hope to the people of this village. And now?

We have started a conversation about Grahamstown hosting a mini-Festival from 25 June – 5 July 2020. It may play second fiddle to NAF or sing its own tune. A mini-Grahamstown Festival could draw upon local and emerging talent within whatever Lockdown constraints prevail at the time. Perhaps audiences will be restricted in size or be required to be in the open air with people sitting 10m apart in family groups.
I don’t have all the answers. What I do know is that we better put on our yellow (creative) thinking caps for we will need to sing hard for our supper this year.


Before moving back to Grahamstown in Oct 2017, Graeme was a bank executive based in the big smoke and craziness of Joburg. He has 20 years’ experience in the Payments Industry. He is a Chartered Accountant, has a Masters in Management by Research (MMR) from Wits Business School, and attended an Advanced Management Programme (AMP) offered by INSEAD (The Business School for the World!) in France.  

Graeme is the founder of The Grahamstown Project. It’s simple. He says, “Grahamstown is a microcosm of South Africa. If we can’t get this place to function properly then the whole country is stuffed. Many of the troubles we experience as a country today have their roots here in Grahamstown. it is here where black and white people first engaged in conflict on the African continent. It is here where 9 wars of dispossession over 100 years took place and virtually destroyed the amaXhosa nation. But we are where we are. I don’t have a British passport and the boat-trip back to where my ancestors came from is exorbitantly expensive. Furthermore, this is my home. I am a son of Africa. We must work together to redress the injustices of the past and move as one into a brighter future.”

Graeme is an avid historian, writer, vlogger and public speaker. Like and follow the Facebook page. Join him on a tour. Contact him. He would love that.