OPINION: Deadly virus – this too shall pass

Columnist Phiri Cawe

It’s almost three weeks since the start of the 21-day national lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus, and as I watch people seemingly carelessly walking the streets, defying all the rules laid down by government, I don’t have much faith in the future.

With the coronavirus and the lockdown, I must confess I lost faith and respect in our leadership. There were no proper plans for the poor and the disadvantaged. There are days I wish I can just vanish in thin air and not see another vagrant digging in the dustbins for something to salvage.

The most marginalised and the have-nots struggle to practise social/ physical distancing.

The lockdown is something that was needed, but did we have a good plan for it? I doubt we did. Did we care about others? The reality of the lockdown showed that our people are still facing a challenge of many diseases. While many people who seem to” boycott” the regulations were queuing for toilets, the haves were busy posting on Facebook and WhatsApp groups how they work nicely from home and condemning those who are not indoors. From the comfort of their couches with nice food, they called others all sorts of names – irresponsible, reckless and many others.

Meanwhile, they have never bothered to find out their reasons for being out. While the haves were talking production, their workers were struggling to get to work. Those who own the most material valuables have no clue that thousands of people still share one toilet. They are not even aware that the shared toilet is outside and a distance away.

Many posted pictures of themselves testing privately for Covid-19, boasting and bragging about that and, in the process, forgetting that there are people who cannot afford a loaf of bread, let alone the up to R3 000 to do this testing privately. Yes, there are people who, despite waking up to go to work every day, still cannot afford that and so much more.

No, we were too selfish, instead criticising those who were out.

Calls of let’s stay at home, “let us be present” echo every day, but to many, it is a joke. As much as it is sad that there are many who are not taking the lockdown seriously, we also have to ask why some are out on the streets. Did our government provide everything that would keep us tied home? Government failed to provide basics such as water. It failed to house the vagrants. Must we then blame the poor?

We live in a Third World country – in the First World, people are used to ordering groceries online and getting them delivered to their doors. Some governments even provided groceries. These are governments that are really serious about people’s lives.

But having said all this, it is still in our hands to deal with these challenges. I am of the view that with honesty and humility, we can do better, especially in caring for the poor.

The lockdown, personally, has made me a better person. It made me do things like painting, cleaning and gardening; all things that I have been postponing for the past two years. I spent airtime to talk to people I last talked to years ago.

I was also able to reflect a lot, and it has given me a sense of reality of what many South Africans are faced with. I was lucky to be among those permitted to drive around because of the nature of my work, but I had not been stopped by police for days until I drove on the R300.

It also opened my eyes to how some leaders couldn’t care less about their people when they needed help.

Come the end of this deadly virus, we will be stronger and (hopefully) better people. I have no doubt that this too shall pass.