29 March 2020
Behind the very idea of a lockdown is the importance of social distancing – something we, as a country, ought to uniformly observe in order to stay clear of the potential devastating impact of Covid-19. Without uniform application, the whole idea falls apart – as will our country.
South Africans can stay in their homes all year through without seeing results if social distancing is not enforced.
It’s evident from the first few days that our shopping centres, especially in the townships, have become a cesspit of a possible spread because of how social partners have neglected the message on how to manage the queues.
Way too many people have been shoving and pushing each other, others standing right close to each other as they scramble for food items in shops. Some taxis have been found carrying more than the minimum number of passengers.
An odd example was police bundling people removed from a crowded minibus into the back of a police van – further compounding the social distancing problem.
It is one thing for the state to tell us what to do in order to minimise the impact of the virus, which has killed thousands across the globe and one life in this country, but quite another when the state itself violates its own regulations.
We do not expect the entire government machinery to suddenly unleash a level of precision hitherto unseen in our land.
But we do expect a modicum of improved communication between policymakers like ministers and those who implement, like police and others who manage long queues.
We raise this matter well ahead of the pension pay-outs in the next few days. Our hope is that government and social partners will prove us wrong.
While coronavirus has been a great leveller – attacking the very elites in society who are able to travel internationally and those who live in the economic centres of the world – it, unfortunately, will also wreck havoc in the lives of the poorest among us.
It is the poor in townships who get basic necessities from crowded shops. It is the poor who stand in long queues to get water from government tankers, if at all the trucks arrive.
So our hearts also go out to millions of people, across the country, without access to clean water at this point. There is no better time than now to showcase our ubuntu.
It can’t be that the economically fit are the ones to survive on account of having access to basic amenities like water.
Trite though it is that all sectors of our economic life are affected, it is important that we emphasise the significance of social distancing.
This is because if we do not manage this well, it will first impact the poor the hardest, but our fate as a people, as humanity, is intertwined.