It came like a flash of angry light and brimstone, followed by an audacious thunderous tempest. Bold and seemingly uncontrollable, leaving both the ill-prepared captain and crew members in a higgledy-piggledy state, struggling – somehow clueless – to damper the stubborn tidal tempest. Lockdown and quarantine seem the most suitable precaution for the surprised, vulnerable passengers against being snatched away by the angry tempest or from the jabbing jaw of the hungry shark. Welcome the unwelcome, unbidden coronavirus.
It has been anything but unexpected, but the magnitude and effects of the virus are unimaginable. Although the pandemic is hardly impromptu, to say the least, measures taken to curtail the aggressive virus have thrown many in perplexity, pandemonium and hopelessness. Suddenly, everyone is, left on their own – together at home, yet alone. Offices, public services and shops are closed. Businesses on a standstill, leaving everyone running precariously helter-skelter.
The coronavirus exposes the weakness in each affected country, politics and health system. However, in the face of the coronavirus challenges, in the Western world, where responsibility and accountability are the sine qua non of good governance, the governments pay the greater percentage of the salary and wages of their employed citizens, who could not work due to the lockdown. Self-employed individuals are offered some financial compensations. Other serious efforts are made by these dedicated governments to ease the hardship the coronavirus has brought on the citizenry, who are equally, making sacrifices to help the government curtail the aggressive virus.
Which efforts are African governments making to support their quarantined citizens, who are making enormous sacrifices and facing medical, financial and social strangulations due to the pandemic?
With about 80 per cent of Africans solely depending on their sweat and meagre income to survive, the lockdown put in place by various African governments has effectively turned life into misery, as well as created existential uncertainty for many Africans. The truth is that many Africans live from hand to mouth; it is, therefore, not only unrealistic but very suicidal to expect this hardworking mass of humanity to stay home for weeks without having basic survival provision. In as much as one hardly doubts the necessity and effectiveness of the lockdown, sadly, these poor masses cannot live on sand; they need at least, some food to survive the lockdown. It is the responsibility of every government to provide this necessity for its citizenry.
Unsurprisingly, some criminals in Cape Town, South Africa, have used the 21-day lockdown as an opportunity to target closed down businesses. The situation is not different in Zimbabwe. Being restricted to home without access to state benefits, food and sometimes even running water, following the lockdown, which has seen shops shut in Zimbabwe, especially in Harare, more than 16 suspects have been arrested over the weekend by the police in Harare for allegedly breaking into businesses
While one vehemently condemns any illegal or criminal activities, we must appreciate the precarious situation of some of us who are effectively kept locked up or down at home without food, power and other necessities in life. Such a dicey situation could force one to do the unthinkable.
But the coronavirus pandemic comes with some positive sides as well. The irony behind the pandemic is that it respects no one – irrespective of their geographical location, colour, gender, religion, social status etc. Suddenly, countries closed their borders firmly. Travelling by road, air or sea to other countries has become a dream not even one’s money or social status can fulfil. No country wants you. Soon the rich corrupt African lords have suddenly found themselves in the same dire straits as any other poor citizen. Equality before the almighty coronavirus, you would say. No more flying out to the USA or UK for a medical check-up. The rich are forced to use the same miserable medical centre and facilities they heartlessly set up for the poor in their countries. Let us hope the arrival of the coronavirus will bring better medical services to Africa after the virus has left. Will the governments read the corona handwriting on the wall and listen to the voice of reasoning and wisdom?
Unexpectedly, humanity has started to appreciate each other. We have come to realise that human beings can be simply powerless in the face of uncertainties. Somehow, people have started to accept they are not as powerful as they might think they are. Churches, mosque, pastors, Iman (you name them), who once fed on the gullibility of many Africans are left gasping for an explanation as to why they did not see the merciless almighty corona coming. Nor did any of the so-called men and women of God ever tried, talk less, succeed in “casting out” the coronavirus demon. Only those chewing the seed of foolishness will still believe that buying those bottles of anointed oil or water from the religious merchants would cleanse their problems and bring them success, prosperity or good health.
With virtually no cars on the road, planes grounded, companies and offices shut down, eco-systems have hardly experienced more reduction on the human impact on the environment. Family members have never been brought nearer to each other than now. The era of wives or children not having quality time with their husbands/fathers has gone with the wind of the coronavirus lockdown. Perhaps, the self-quarantine would bring back or create those lost romantic feelings attributed to lack of quality time shared among couples. In Africa, where billions budgeted for the health care has been fastidiously misappropriated by few gluttonous individuals, with the triumphal entry of the coronavirus, those rich leaders, who had always made oversea hospital their choice for treatment are forced to share the ugly experience of an average person on the street whenever they visit the deteriorated hospital. With no drugs, equipment and other necessities for good medical treatment, soon the coronavirus, has offered everyone – irrespective of their social status – the same health care experience, hasn’t it?
Governments must provide the necessary support for the citizens, who obediently struggle to combat the coronavirus pandemic. These masses are battling with a life of uncertainties and existential challenges. While no one knows whether they will be infected with the coronavirus if they step out of their homes, a hungry person restricted to home without access to food, water and other necessities and without government efforts to make those necessities available to the citizens, knows they cannot survive without food. Without food at home or support from their governments, it may come to a stage where the masses may defy all odds and step out of their homes to look for survival. In that case, the citizens will have one thing in mind: it is either one dies of the coronavirus or hunger.
One might be infected with the coronavirus and survive, but without food, you will die. If this obvious reality is too difficult for various African governments to understand, the masses could be forced to make a choice soon, in the face of the existential threat. Call it the coronavirus-led civil disobedience – or revolt – if you like.