OPINION: We can learn from China’s response to virus

Phiri Cawe

A country that was nearly wiped out by a polony (Listeriosis) is now ready to cure coronavirus. South Africa could learn a lesson or two from China’s handling of the outbreak of the coronavirus.

And we need more than just promises, because government doesn’t have a great track record with promises.

Didn’t they promise to end corruption sooner than later? And what happened to the promise to have public transport integrated and running smoothly?

Most parts of Cape Town have no running trains as we speak.

When the spread of the coronavirus became a problem in China, it did not take that government two months to build hospitals to deal with the outbreak. Everything was in place, doctors, nurses and the facilities required to service patients.

There were no fights over who would get the tender. The government of that country showed that it was more concerned about people than bureaucracy and money. And China’s government delivered what was required.

We are currently grappling with the fallout of the drought, with some parts of the country still in the grip of it. What is happening? We hear that in KZN R22 million allocated to drought programmes was stolen. How was it stolen was never explained.

In the same KZN, R30 million once allocated for a musical concert that was never staged, was spirited away. Did we ever do anything about that?

In the Eastern Cape a Mdantsane swimming pool has never been done. Reports are that a whopping R10 million was allocated to it, but never reached the intended project.

Also in the EC, a sports field in Dutywa was allocated R11 million, but the field is still undone.

I can go on and on counting monies allocated to develop our areas, with the projects having never come to fruition. In my village of Bacclessfarm we have an unfinished tar road that should have been finished years ago.

Which brings me to our capacity to effectively deal with the coronavirus should we have any confirmed cases here. It is one thing to receive well-written press statements from the health department promising that all is well, and its prepared to deal with it. It is another thing to really act on it.

I find it difficult to believe that we can deal with something like the coronavirus if we can’t even generate enough electricity to keep the lights on. A country that was nearly wiped out by a polony is now ready for a deadly virus. That is amazing.

In addition to this, we regularly hear about public health facilities not being able to deal with day-to-day challenges like having enough medication to dispense, or being able to attend to the people who queue up for many hours waiting to see a doctor.

We have pride in our country. And that’s fine. But pride won’t help the poor people of South Africa. As a country and of course as ministers and leaders of this ailing country, need to be honest and be open to learn from other countries how to deal with looters, thieves and other challenges.

For four years people of the Free State have had no water. For years people of eGcuwa have nothing to drink, and all over the country we have dysfunctional municipalities.

The outbreak in China has been devastating, but the way the country had dealt with it should be a lesson that we learn from and start acting more responsibly.