OP-ED

South Africa needs all hands on deck

By Thozamile Botha 30 March 2020

A Spotted Eagle Owl with one eye looks on at the World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary in Cape Town, South Africa, 02 August 2017. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

While we take refuge in our homes during the 21-day lockdown, there is no real place called home for many poor South Africans, some of whom live in shacks and on the streets. They rely on the goodwill of their fellow South Africans. 

Fellow South Africans, 

Even in the face of adversity, we must never give up. We must be like an eagle, we must not lose our focus no matter what the obstacles are.  

Lesson from an Eagle: “Do not rely on your past success, keep looking for new frontiers to conquer, leave your past where it belongs, the past”.

Life as we knew it is coming to an end for many people, but what keeps some of us going is looking beyond the horizon. This country of ours has gone through bad times in the past, we have gone through physical and psychological trauma. This is not the time to give in. Let us save our country as a united nation regardless of the colour of our skin and our political differences.

Notwithstanding the history of repression meted on the black people by the white population, the spirit of forgiveness engendered by Nelson Mandela has to be invoked to guide us during this difficult time. It is time to create a common history which we can all proudly claim. A history of being South Africans first and foremost before we are diverted by our racial or ethnic affiliations. 

I know that we, the African people, were the common enemy of both the English and the Afrikaners, but we now share common cultural symbols, our flag and our national anthem, and we are bound together by our sovereign state as defined in our 1996 Constitution. This is what compels all of us to bury our narrow, political, racial, cultural and ethnic differences to unite as a proud nation determined to build our future to secure our children and grandchildren’s heritage.

Notwithstanding our colonial past, let us all be magnanimous enough to acknowledge one another’s contribution to the building of this, our beautiful country. Without our collective input in the development of this country, the South Africa we all enjoy today would not be what it is. 

All South African national groups have made a significant contribution towards building this country.

When Covid-19 denies us the space of the malls and streets of our cities, and from converging freely in the countryside, our only place of refuge is what we call home. Firstly, our home is South Africa. Secondly, our home is where we share common space with our families. 

During these 21 days of lockdown, South Africans from all walks of life, rich and poor, black and white, have all been called upon to stay at home. However, we all know that for many of the urban poor, especially black people, some of whom live in shacks and on the streets, there is no real home. They rely on the goodwill of their fellow South Africans.  The moral and the spiritual support of the community is what sustains them. It is this tenacity and enduring hope for a better tomorrow that keeps them going. Even without shelter and without food they still have hope for a better tomorrow. This includes those who sleep on the streets and survive by begging across the colour divide, cultural differences, and religious beliefs. 

The coronavirus is a reminder to all of us that in the final analysis we are all equal, that we need one another as fellow South Africans. As someone put it, the coronavirus is an equaliser.

When this pandemic is over, we shall have to rebuild our country together from the ruins of the coronavirus and the junk status to which we have been downgraded. We will need one another’s financial and intellectual capital to rebuild the economy. The coronavirus is not a rich or poor people’s disease, nor is it a white man’s disease.

I saw a WhatsApp post asking who do the Oppenheimers and the Ruperts think they are fooling by contributing R1-billion each when they have taken our land and the minerals. It was an unfortunate comment to make at this time when the corporates are making genuine contributions. In times like these, we need all hands on deck and no destruction. DM

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