Opinion | Zahid Jadwat
For all South Africans, Friday will be aberrant with unusually quiet streets, deserted squares, locked doors and the eerie presence of the army. We will awaken to a situation that has never been experienced in this country ever before.
This will be because on Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the ultimate measure aimed at containing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Placing a nation of 56 million inhabitants under a three-week-long lockdown with tightly regulated movement is a desperate attempt – and perhaps the best choice – in our efforts to interrupt the chain of transmission of the deadly coronavirus that has claimed thousands of lives across every inhabited continent of this planet.
At first, when the virus first appeared in the distant city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, I never thought it would reach our shores let alone predict the impact it would have on our lives.
Recent days have jolted me to realization. Schools closed, gatherings limited and impending restrictions on movement all drilled one message into my head: this is real.
Although Africa has had an insignificant number of deaths in comparison to the rest of the world, experts have warned that we could reach the same position if swift action is not taken immediately.
The theories by critics about what prompted the South African government to place citizens within the confines of our homes for three weeks (other than the virus spread itself) have expectedly sprung up. One such theory is one that enhances the credibility of the idea that the actions taken have a link to politics far closer than we think.
The theory suggests that politics could have had a hand in Ramaphosa’s announcement of a lockdown on the basis that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) could lose a considerable number of votes if the virus makes its way to our choked townships.
The concern is that this may result in catastrophic and uncontrollable situations in which transmission would spread more rapidly than the devastating Knysna Fires of 2017.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the factors that contribute to alarming projections that the virus may infect around 80% of South Africans.
We need not even delve deep into the situation of our crippled health system to understand the anticipated disaster brought along with the virus which would result in the inevitable collapse of the system. This is simply because years of mismanagement have created an unfortunate situation where the system cannot cope with an influx of patients.
Displaying an attitude of indifference by not enforcing these almost unreal measures to curb the coronavirus, like the impending nationwide lockdown, would spell a disaster and generate an awful negative image of Ramaphosa and his government in the eyes of the majority of the electorate. Quite obviously, Ramaphosa knows that he can’t afford this as he battles to restore the confidence that was eroded by the disgraceful governance of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
Considering the implications which could arise as a result of the government’s failure to swiftly introduce appropriate measures to interrupt the spread of Covid-19, a nationwide lockdown presents itself as the most viable option. Luckily, the majority of the nation is in favour of this.
Politics aside, Ramaphosa and his government must be given due credit for their efforts. Furthermore, we all have a role to play in the fight against the virus. We need to trust Ramaphosa and Minister Zweli Mkhize on this one and demonstrate this by obedience to what they have decided for our country.
It is about saving lives – something far more important than an economy that can be resuscitated with due effort once the pandemic is behind us.
It is evident to me that politics plays a large role in government decisions but I implore you to understand the situation, take precautions and stay at home.
It won’t be easy, but – as Ramaphosa said – we will prevail.
Featured Image: Google