Conscience of a Centrist: Price of carelessness is too high

Johannesburg – Think of someone you love unconditionally.

Picture that person going home for the Christmas break full of joy at the thought of seeing the family she has long last set eyes on.

Now picture that person suddenly falling ill and gasping for air, her body wrecked with pain as her life ebbs away. This all with her children looking on, asking themselves what could be behind the sudden deterioration of such a radiant life? This is the reality of Covid-19. My experience was on Thursday, December 31 2020.

My person was my mother-in-law. Her name is Mojabeng Nteo. She was funny and giving.

She wore a mask, and she died of Covid-19. I worry Mina, as we affectionately called her, will be another anonymous statistic presented through jokes and memes about how awful 2020 was.

More than 30 000, and counting, have perished to the pandemic. Mine is but one story of a breadwinner who succumbed to the virus, leaving four children to fend for themselves in an unwelcoming economy.

The reality is that a simple walk through my village was enough to show me how easily even a cautious person like Mina could have contracted the virus. Far too many people still view the virus as a hoax, as something the government conjured up to keep the masses “busy”.

Unfortunately, the price for the ignorance and stupidity has been high for too many families. The messaging coming from the government regarding the vaccine rollout is not comforting. In fact, it leaves one with an impression of a government out of energy and ideas. The rollout of vaccines will be an enormous logistical and communications task, fraught with difficulties.

The government will only succeed if it learns from the problems that have been a feature of its response to the pandemic.

The Union Building’s handling of the crisis so far has been hampered by confused, at times chaotic, decision-making. Ministers’ objectives have been unclear, decision- making has been fragmented; accountability between different organisations has been muddled, including for key tasks such as raising testing capacity. South Africans deserve better than the customary family meeting where they are left with more questions than answers.

But as citizens, we also need to be our brothers’ keepers and behave in an honourable manner that seeks to minimise the spread of the virus. Yes, this is a novel virus but we should and must have learnt a great deal in the past year to make better decisions to keep ourselves and loved ones safe, and we can only rest when the virus is a distant and sad memory.

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