5 April 2020
In an opinion expressed on this space last week, we came short of predicting that government will mismanage the social distancing required to manage coronavirus when disbursing pensions.
We said: “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 payouts in the next few days. Our hope is that government and social partners will prove us wrong.”
Ordinarily, we like being proven right. Not this time. Despite our warnings, not only were the queues mismanaged, two pensioners died while in queues and a third passed on while on her way to the pay-point. This is a grim indictment on how we, collectively, show scant regard for the most vulnerable in our society.
It is shameful that those who have little must lose their lives scraping to make a living. Nelson Mandela said “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.
He may as well have included poor pensioners because, in any case, we all become vulnerable like children when we get older. As we approach the end of the second week of our 21-day lockdown, we are concerned that this virus has killed about seven people in a short space of time in our country, and 60 000 around the world.
We are particularly worried about those in informal settlements, who are unable to, with the best of intentions, practise any social distancing that is required to break the back of this virus.
We celebrate Jili’s humanity
Actress Sibusiswe Jili, who was recently added to The Queen drama series, on DStv, is a real queen to be celebrated. As many of us navigate our way through lockdown, she has decided to buy groceries for two families in distress.
In an interview with Sunday World, she states: “I go to the shops for supplies, then get some supplies for at least two families that I can drop off on my way back. It’s not much and I don’t want to violate any law, but if I can just help another family, then I’ve done my part. I obviously don’t interact at close range, I knock, leave the parcel with a note, check whether they received it, then I leave”.
South Africa will be a much better place with people like Jili. Actors are already affected by coronavirus, with productions, including The Queen, having ground to a halt. The fact that she’s able to help, in spite of her own situation, makes our hearts mellow.
We can only wonder how our country would change if all the millionaires, including many CEOs who earn obscene amounts, took a leaf out of Jili’s life. Keep it up, girl. We celebrate your humanity, your Ubuntu.