Don’t put our lives at risk

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.


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