OPINION: Poverty has stood up to show its ugly face

Columnist Phiri Cawe

Twenty-eight days into lockdown, and Covid-19 has shown us how widely divided this country is.

With the virus, the chickens have come home to roost.

There will be unrest on all fronts.

Personally I hope for another extension of the lockdown. My fear is that we have not been respectful to it and stayed home. I fear that when we relax regulations, it will be when it hits us hard. I do not think this virus will leave us soon. Even if it did, we will still be scared. To be on the safe side, we need another month or so. The country still needs to play safe. But, a big BUT, how will the masses react? It will be war.

With how things have started to shape up, I fear demonstrations and more looting of shops. The looting, in broad daylight, has started.

The storm (unrests) is coming and coming heavy and hard. Reality has hit home.

The poor and vulnerable have started to show the middle finger to the lockdown.

Call it the criminal element and recklessness on the side of the communities but in reality, an extended lockdown is a problem for the poor.

Poverty has stood up to be counted; it has shown its ugly face.

It is unfortunate that class and race lines are evident and crystal-clear.

The lockdown is a problem because there are many people who have never had a “normal” life.

As much as the lockdown is for the good of all for all of us, the poor do not see it that way.

We can argue, but the lockdown in most areas has already weighed heavy on the poor.

The virus came to us when we were not mentally and otherwise prepared. It has and will continue to trigger violence, unrest and dissatisfaction on many fronts.

The reality of no income hit home as residents of Khayelitsha, Manenberg and Mitchell’s Plain took to the streets recently to vent their anger. Forget those who go around breaking into bottle stores and liquor stores – having no income and not used to being at home for many has created problems for the government.

Again, who is doing all this? It is those who live under the breadline.

In contrast, when you walk in the suburbs, it seems you are walking in a cemetery. It is nice and quiet.

The real poor ones are finding it tough to stay at home, with nothing. But there is a criminal element that will soon sweep the townships. There is more coming.

I fear that criminals will now rob our brave health workers.

Some have seen an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. Volunteers and health workers would need us more in the coming days – we, by all means, have to protect these people.

Covid-19 is happening at a time of pronounced social inequality. But what the rioters and disgruntled fail to understand is that their health and all of ours are bound to suffer heavily with unrest opening a space that will leave us prone to infection.

If I had my way, the lockdown would be extended.

We have not really respected it. We have not respected the laws laid down by our government. For that reason and many, it should be extended again.

Let’s deal with our big challenge of inequality after this pandemic is under control.

With due respect to my fellow South Africans – may we stay at home, with love and respect for our health.