Bheki Mashile's Letter from Umjindi

Corona blessing in disguise


There is at least one good thing that can be said about this Coronavirus thingy. But before I get to it, let me just say I hope that by the time you read this the pandemic will have been brought under control and you will all be well.

Now then, what is the one thing I can say about this pandemic? Simple: it’s a reminder to man- kind as to who wields the big stick on this here mother earth, and that my friends is mother nature or for those that are of the religion loving types, the Almighty, whether you refer to the great one as God, Allah or whatever, and certainly not some “superpower” governed from Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC and certainly not from the Kremlin or Beijing.

Speaking of the USA, who would think that it now has a leader who thinks the woes faced by this historically welcoming nation are caused by immigrants seeking a better life!

As karma would have it, the US faces one of the highest infection and death rates from the Coronavirus which was reportedly brought into the US by legal travellers, and not by illegal immigrants. Go figure. I am surprised el Presidente a los Estados Unidos, Trump, has not tweeted blaming the spread of the virus in the US on the like-named Mexican beer brand.

As long as we share this place called mother earth we are all tied at the hip and nothing could have reminded us of this reality better than this Coronavirus. Yes, we all know why the world can truly be called a small place: industrialisation, air travel and the ever increasing migration of people whether the man in that White House likes it or not or whether we here in Mzansi shamefully attack our African brothers and sisters in the name of xenophobia, yes, whether we like it or not, mankind is tied at the ‘hip’ and frankly speaking has always been, by mother nature of course.

Now this pandemic should be used to do some serious introspection. It has made it clear that we need to take a hard look at what is really important. Should it be only looking after our self-interest, be it national, as exemplified by US prez Donald Trump, political, as in parties, or racial, as in the likes of Afri Forum? The virus has loudly and viciously said no, we should always prioritise the human condition, the well-being of our fellow man and the well-being of – and respect for – mother earth.

In doing so, we need to prioritise things like health care, access to clean water and generally a clean and safe living environment for all. Living conditions such as those that exist in places like Alexandria, Diepsloot and scores of other shack communities around the country need to be eradicated; the downtrodden need to be given shelter off the streets. Corona has shown us that their “misfortunes” affect us all. Yes indeed Corona is a wakeup call.

I know I am echoing what many people have already said, so there is nothing special about these words but they are certainly words that need to be said over and over again.

Once again, if anything this pandemic should be used as an opportunity to reflect on the frailty of mankind, our dependence on the health of mother earth, the threats we face as a species and use that as a guide to addressing our many faults – many that we may until recently have been unaware of.

Not too long ago I wrote a piece ‘making fun’ of the quacks, the street preachers who have been telling us for many years that the world is doomed; yes that was columnist satire, but it was also highlighting another serious matter that is a real threat to mankind: climate change.

That and this virus, I admit, did bring their words of doom to mind.

Unfortunately South Africa has a large sector of the population that is more hard headed than the macadamia nut and, at least from what I have seen in my community, they are not adhering to the simple request to maintain “social distancing”.

But the question must be asked, how can they when their living conditions, tightly packed Townships, and ridiculous public transport in those so called taxis, do not afford them that distance?

Well at least this time around our government is not listening to denialists and telling us we will be ok if we just eat the African potato.
In the words of a song by 70’s American soul band, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes:
Wake up everybody no more sleepin’ in bed, No more backward thinkin’ time for thinkin’ ahead”.

Be safe. Happy Christmas!

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