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Opinion - 21 days will define us as a nation

By Aakash Bramdeo Time of article published Mar 26, 2020

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Opinion - South Africa is at a crossroads. How we conduct ourselves during the 21-day lockdown will determine how many of us will live and how many of us will die.

To stay alive, we need to do as President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked: wash our hands properly, take the necessary measures to cover our nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing as well as avoiding contact with each other.

If we don’t, South Africa could be one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus. This is because so many of our countrymen and women have a suppressed immunity as a result of HIV/Aids, TB as well as high levels of poverty and malnutrition.

To quote the president: “Without decisive action, the number of people infected will rapidly increase from a few hundred to tens of thousands, and within a few weeks to hundreds of thousands.”

We find ourselves in a situation we, as a species, have never experienced before. However, we must not be afraid. We must control what we can and accept that which is not within our control. This includes the fact that people we love could die.

However, we have to trust that we will emerge from this a better people. Our tomorrow will be better than our today.

We must sow those seeds by taking this time in lockdown to reflect on our own lives. Are we oxygen thieves? People who take more than we give? Or, do we live our lives in a way that adds value to others and our planet?

Our government has done everything it could in the circumstances. In President Ramaphosa we have a leader we can be proud of. He has acted decisively and timeously. Everything he has done has been underpinned by a spirit of benevolence.

The Solidarity Fund, which has been set up to assist those affected, is a positive move. The president assured us that every cent will be accounted for and, at this stage, we have no reason to doubt him. It shows we have learnt from our mistakes of the past.

Government will provide the first R150million. And the Rupert and Oppenheimer families will donate a billion rand each. Let me say that again - R1billion each. These were the people who were once dubbed the “Stellenbosch mafia” and who some accused of undermining our country.

It shows that in troubled times, South Africans can stand together.

You will also see this spirit in our doctors, nurses and pharmacists who will leave their families to take care of others. You will see it in the police and soldiers who will put their lives on the line so the rest of us can be safe. You will see it in the cashier who will serve you with a smile knowing you could kill him or her.

It was this spirit that made us the Rainbow Nation. Wherever he is, Nelson Mandela must be smiling.

We at the POST will play our part. Together with other media organisations we will continue doing what we do to keep you informed and educated. Trust what we say, not the fake news.

As we enter this critical juncture in our history, let us remember the words (paraphrased) of president Thomas J Whitmore, the American president in the movie Independence Day:

“Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can no longer be consumed by our petty differences. We have to be united in our common interests. In the coming days you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression or persecution. But from annihilation. We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist. And let us be certain. We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive.”

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