/Adriaan Basson: A plea for less hysteria and more respect at a difficult time for us all

Adriaan Basson: A plea for less hysteria and more respect at a difficult time for us all

2020-05-04 06:00

South Africans are increasingly getting agitated, annoyed and downright gatvol with each other, the government and the regulations governing our lives as we enter week six of lockdown, writes Adriaan Basson.


“President Ramaphosa, take your boot off our throats.”

“This thing has the potential to wipe off the nation.”

“Maybe the Cape Town situation is God at work. Let’s leave them.”

I don’t know about your inboxes and social media timelines, but the past few days have been rof!

South Africans are increasingly getting agitated, annoyed and downright gatvol with each other, the government and the regulations governing our lives as we enter week six of lockdown.

On Monday, 1.5m people (but probably thousands more) are returning to work in industries like agriculture, manufacturing, construction and financial services.

Many more are remaining at home; either working from their bedrooms and kitchens, watching the hours go by or wondering where their next pay cheque or meal will come from.

It is a difficult time for us all. Very few people in the world have lived through a pandemic like this. We have to be kind to ourselves and those around us and try, as hard as it is, to keep perspective.

None of us have all the answers, but the one thing I know is that verbal abuse, belittling each other outright hatred will not help us get through this painful period in history.

It serves absolutely no purpose to use violent metaphors or unjustified Nazi references because you don’t agree with the way the lockdown has been managed.

To survive the Covid-19 outbreak and the “devastating storm” (Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s words) that lay ahead of us, we will have to find a way to put respect and common sense at the centre of our interaction with each other.

And here I include us all: the executive, the government, business and all citizens.

None of us have been here before; not even Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has the unenviable task under the Disaster Management Act to lead the government’s efforts.

She is only human; she will make mistakes.

To President Cyril Ramaphosa and your Cabinet, I plead with you to communicate clearly with the nation and not to create false expectations, like with the selling of cigarettes, when you address us.

This creates unnecessary distrust at a time when we need to restore the trust deficit between government and the public after a decade of state capture.

I plead with you to be guided by respect and common sense when you draw up regulations and make decisions that impact the lives of millions who believe you that we can soften the impact on our hospitals and medical staff when the virus peaks in South Africa.

I know you try to act in the best interest of South Africans, but we are not alone in this and many countries around the world have opened up their economies and public spaces to an extent that balances the health risk with economic and mental well-being.

Let’s look at those who peaked before us and learn from them.

Very few countries in the world have completely banned the sale of alcohol and cigarettes during lockdown. You cannot sensibly continue this ban while our hospitals are quiet and the fiscus bleeds dry.

There has to be a smart way to open-up the limited sale of alcohol and tobacco under Level 4. It is not fair to ask people to wait for Level 3, when we know that our infections and deaths will only increase from here.

E-commerce have been opened-up completely in most countries around the world. Why not here, Minister Patel?

It is a safe way to trade at a time when we desperately need as many small and medium companies as possible to operate safely to stay alive.

Why do you need a permit to feed the hungry and the poor? Common sense must prevail, Minister Dlamini-Zuma.

And Minister Cele, please don’t lie to people that Covid-19 could wipe out the whole of South Africa.

You know this is not true. Even though as many as 70% of us may ultimately be infected, only a small percentage of people – often older people with co-morbidities – will die.

Many of us will not even know that we had the coronavirus. That’s why testing and tracing is so vitally important at the moment.

The point of the lockdown is to slow down the infection rate to prepare our healthcare system for the peak of Covid-19 in South Africa – probably during or after winter.

We all want our country to remain a shining light on the handling of the crisis.

Let’s not lose faith and our manners now.

 – Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24

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