Opinionista Wayne Duvenage 26 March 2020

Coronavirus: We can capitalise on this new enemy and our heightened resolve

The Covid-19 pandemic gives new meaning to fighting a common invisible enemy, with the next few weeks being our biggest test of resilience and the need for solidarity. This crisis also gives us an opportunity to reflect on a future of heightened moral courage and active citizenry, sorely needed to address our pre-coronavirus woes in a post-coronavirus world. 

As we prepare for three weeks (and possibly more) of residential confinement and the subsequent economic slump, our ability to survive and prepare for the enormity of the challenges that lie ahead will depend on our ability to remain calm, be resolute, plan and support one another. 

To be part of the solution instead of adding to the problem, means taking social distancing and sanitising your hands seriously. It means refraining from sharing sensationalist, fake and questionable posts. It means allaying fears, keeping a cool head and sticking to the rules. 

The decision to implement a lockdown of human interaction on a national (and international) scale has one intention only, to halt the spread of the coronavirus and flush it out. This is not a shutdown. The drastic measures undertaken in the lockdown decision, merely force human interaction to the bare minimum, while allowing the public to shop for necessities, visit the doctor, collect meds among a few other things — as listed by the authorities. 

There really was no choice for the government. It was either to heed the call for best practice by cutting deep and hard now, or suffer prolonged illness, trauma and many deaths perpetuated by a destructive virus that would be recycled throughout the human species for years to come. The negative impact on families, communities and countries would be far greater outside that of a lockdown. 

Our biggest worry and challenge now is to manage the devastating impact this lockdown will have on our lives, the economy and the human psyche for years and even decades beyond coronavirus (BC). The world will be a vastly different place going forward and what was normal today will be frowned upon tomorrow. 

Unfortunately, in our quest to get beyond the current virus disaster, we suffer additional chaos that oozes from the human psyche of “each person for himself”. Triggered by a fear of the unknown, fake news and sensationalism, the panic and hoarding frenzies have led to food shortages and escalating prices. More unfortunate pressure for the vulnerable and poor. 

People appear to be oblivious of the fact that food production, delivery logistics and grocery stores continue to operate. There will be more than enough for everyone if we stop the panic. 

The troubles and trauma that we should prepare for in earnest are those of severely reduced cash flows and lost or reduced income that will increase poverty, hunger and starvation. Millions of citizens do not have the reserves or ability to emerge unscathed from the shock of a lockdown. Our collective pain can be reduced if we all dig deep into our humanity baskets and practise the true spirit of Ubuntu. This will save lives. 

Dwelling in the past and being critical of the cause and reasons of the pandemic will merely hold us back. How quickly we can emerge from this disaster will depend on what we do to become part of the solution. 

More importantly, if we are to apply our minds to the future we want for our country and its inhabitants, we should take some time to reflect as business leaders, employees, citizens and public servants, on what we will do differently beyond this crisis. 

The fact that our country was on the brink of economic collapse pre-coronavirus, makes it harder for South Africa to survive and recover from the coronavirus calamity. This added plight is the card that was dealt by prolonged State Capture, compounded by the fact that people, businesses and politicians allowed the waste and corruption to go unchecked. 

However, as the adage goes, “we should never waste a good crisis”. Arising from this unfortunate calamity might just be the necessary changes and the discarding of policies that have locked us in the trenches of excessive waste, low growth, rising poverty and relentless corruption. 

This is a time for business leaders to reflect on a broader path that will hopefully reduce the incessant focus of maximising financial gains at the expense of the planet, people and society. There has always been a greater role for business to play in addressing the shortcomings and failures of government. Now is the time for moral courage, in order to reduce the wage gap by introducing new strategies that display more inclusivity of employees, society and the environment at large. 

Will our public servants and government officials heed renewed calls for improved conduct and performance? Will we see a realisation from public servants of their purpose to serve in the best interests of the people? Perhaps a new realisation that poor government and inept politicians are the cause of collapsed economies? Will fruitless and wasteful expenditure attract severe punishment post-coronavirus? 

Positive answers to many of these questions may very well emanate from this crisis, but will only happen if consumers, employees and citizens remind our business leaders and politicians that their past greed and abuse of power will no longer be tolerated — that irrational policies, waste and corrupt conduct will attract heightened condemnation and robust civil action.

But for now, let’s exercise civil courage and do everything we can to stop the contagion. Stop feeding the fake news and panic mill. Calm heads, tenacity and active citizenry are what we most need now.

There are many credible portals and platforms with good, solid and meaningful information on how to stay safe, remain mentally and physically strong and how best we can beat the virus. Read them. Use them. Share them.

We will get through this. DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.

Coronavirus

Gauteng’s oxygen shortages raise questions about lockdown planning 

By Ferial Haffajee