Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

The worst of times could unearth the best in us

By Victor Kgomoeswana Time of article published Mar 29, 2020

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It takes thoughts of summer to survive winter; of sunshine to survive a storm. South Africa registered its first Covid-19 fatalities and cases are well over 1000. These numbers will increase significantly before we “flatten the curve”.

We will emerge from this with a more efficient service delivery machinery, national cohesion and human solidarity, provided we are amenable to its teachings.

Our 21-Day lockdown took effect on Friday, with a few transgressors being taught a bitter lesson. Small to medium enterprises have been forced to shut; with banks reluctant to offer a universal debt-freeze. Chief executive of Edcon, Grant Pattison, broke down on Bruce Whitfield’s Money Show on Radio 702 in a hint to the gravity of destruction we face. Crisis brings out the worst in some, but this could unearth the best in us.

For once, President Cyril Ramaphosa received universal recognition as the head of state, government and commander-in-chief of our armed forces. His Cabinet ministers, overall, displayed a heightened sense of urgency in doing their work. They have been hands-on and decisive in ways we have not been accustomed to.

We have deployed some resources to where they are most needed, with uncharacteristic effectiveness and efficiency. After two decades of protests over the lack of basic amenities, the pressure to wash hands and observe the lockdown forced our bureaucrats to expedite procurement and implementation. Public buildings have installed dispensers of sanitisers at entrances.

The third spin-off of Covid-19 has been our higher awareness and practise of hygiene. For a change, a lot more men in toilets are washing hands - with soap - consistently. Remember klebsiella killing children in an Eastern Cape hospital? How about listeriosis? Both were linked to poor hand-hygiene. Families are frequently sanitising hands, utensils, floors and other surfaces.

Wellness experts have struggled to teach us the value of family time, playing with our children, gardening or simply meditating. Even though self-isolation is impractical in the insalubrious conditions in which millions of informal settlement dwellers are forced to live, South Africans have not acted in unison like they now are spending time at home. The disruption of income generation militates against our composure, but this is a reminder that we can be there for each other, when solidarity is called for.

Number five, most of us were forced to work from home or use communications technology to transact with clients, suppliers and colleagues. This did not work well or at all for some products and services, but Covid-19 exposed our high cost of data and connectivity. It also showed up those companies not ready for the Internet of Things.

The sixth spin-off: money can’t buy everything, at least there are certain ailments that can force the rich and not so rich to work together. The rich profiteer from the crisis - overpricing sanitisers, masks and food; but knowing a minister and a cleaner are both at risk is sobering.

Covid-19 also demonstrated that globalisation is not as glorious as we were made to believe. But, once the storm disappears, most of these lessons could be its best legacy.

Hopefully, we will remember how we made it through and sustain that.

* Victor Kgomoeswana is author of Africa is Open for Business, media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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