It’s none of our business
The first we heard of Corona (COVID19) was that it started in Wuhan, China. This brought about the stigmatisation of many in the Chinese population. Social media did not alleviate it as users popularised the Chinese population consuming animals or foods believed to be carriers of the virus. Of course, forgetting that the world is so connected like a body with organs, it became a problem for China. The closing of Chinese owned businesses were non-negotiable in some countries. Like with any pandemic that does not directly seem to affect us – we prayed for China and created memes for entertainment. We campaigned for the return of our citizens so China could deal with its problem and, take ‘corrective measures’ to ensure the infection did not reach us. Unfortunately, the disease started to spread to other organs of the world.
It’s all our business, what now?
This year, filled with so many resolutions and a new beginning for all of us started to turn murky for South Africans in March. Now talks of memes were no longer welcome because the rapid spread of the disease and death toll was no longer contained from where it originated. The panic started on a normal day upon hearing that COVID-19 had touched the surface in South Africa and that was when the country started to talk. First, we survived listeriosis despite the panic it caused as the removal of polony was not enough to deter the masses of enjoying the simple pleasures of a cuisine. Now we have to fight a pandemic that not only mimics flu symptoms, but has no cure and is now responsible for almost 300 000 worldwide deaths and is chasing an infection rate of almost 5 million.
The South African truth
South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates according to TradingEconomics (2019) and stood at an unemployment rate of 29.1% in the fourth quarter according to StatsSA (2019). With companies closing doors, having retrenched, and still to retrench more after opening the economy. The economy is plummeting to a point that is leaving us anxious despite being considered a progressive country. Some of these industries are in tourism, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and retail to name a few. These industries have been key role players in creating employment in the country. Now the realities of our country are becoming more than just a realisation but a constant reminder of a few harsh truths.
1. Since the closing of schools, parents now have to understand the pressure teachers go through regularly and that it indeed takes a community to raise a child. A child is not an accessory but a full-time responsibility and the more love, education, and support we pour into a child, the better a human being they become even in a dysfunctional society.
2. Without essential services, we cannot function. We are fighting an enemy that is invisible, with no weaponry. Tensions are building up in relationships and how we interact with our loved ones. Depression is lurking, money is scarce and now we truly have to practice not wasting it. All those lessons we were taught about washing your hands and limiting contact with people are making us almost inhumane because there is no room for empathy and any display of sickness makes you subject to judgement.
Anxiety kicks in the moment you leave your house. You are now forced to work from home and are probably unfit as a result. You start to wonder who might have coughed or sneezed around you. Despite all your sanitising you wonder if you can trust the groceries you bought from the store and whether you might have touched your face.
3. Privilege is a real thing. You have to see it when you complain about the lockdown but still have a source of income. We complain about queues in the bank or the shops when in need of essential goods. It’s real when we can stock up goods for our families while some wait for food parcel rescues and some have to find ways to tell their families they have been retrenched or will be experiencing salary cuts.
4. The past has a way of coming back to haunt us. Every decision ever made for a country can either build or scar a nation. In this pandemic, inequality keeps showing its face as a result of the apartheid years. Justifying apartheid’s legacy with the democracy or current leadership does not change racial conflict or contextual factors faced by many South Africans.
5. The country’s GDP has been bailing the country out in preparation for surviving this disease which has greater implications for the taxpayers of our country. Now we also know that our government is efficient in trying to beat a pandemic and can consider the needs of the masses when it counts. However, there have been many occasions where the government could have extensively used its resources to beat gender-based violence, fund more South African businesses and offer mentorships. The state could have equipped schools with technology, provided training for teachers and promoted more youth development programmes. Essential workers are underpaid and those jobs we have undermined for so long are now carrying the country and its people.
6. There is a lack of accountability in our country. However, we started to see that the government can hold its members accountable. It took a pandemic for us to see that the government can follow up on where its funds are allocated and policies can be changed and implemented for the good of the masses.
Where to from here?
Our president quoted the speech of our former legendary statesman in his address on the 13th of May 2020 saying, “We should recall the words spoken by President Nelson Mandela 20 years ago when our country was being devastated by another pandemic. In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now.” All the choices we make as individuals going forward will be a defining step for our future.
We need to show more love and compassion to one another. One thing this pandemic might have achieved is making most of us reflect on all the problems we have blocked out in the name of being busy. Now that we are experiencing a lockdown, we are being tested. Our relationship with others is tested and we keep having to take deeper breaths after every realisation. We need to care more about our environment as this pandemic is forcing us to consider sobriety and being conscious of our personal and external hygiene.
The more we meditate and feed our spirit with laughter, kindness, and spending time with loved ones, the more we remember how to live. COVID19 has shown us that even the richest countries are on their knees and this is the one time where status, race, money, and connections won’t save us. Love, kindness, cooperation, holding our government accountable, and making our voices heard will take us forward. South Africa is wealthy in terms of diversity. We are one of the leading countries when it comes to tourism, we have a rich history and reached great milestones to get to where we are. We need to support local art and businesses more. Now is the time for everybody to pay the country back by being a responsible citizen and taking ownership of making the country better for ourselves and others.
Tell us: What do you think of this piece?