The positives out of a crisis-COVID-19.
The year 2020, the first year of the 2020s decade. The twentieth year of the twenty-first century and the twentieth year of the third millennium. A leap year is said to be and again it is the year with the palindromic date (02-02-2020). With such characteristics one could assume that this is the greatest year in the history of life. But to the books of history, not only the above will be written. For the effects of the COVID-19 will not fade unnoticed. All that transpired in South Africa, in Africa and to the world during this epoch of the reigning of this pandemic will remain part of an awful history.
COVID-19 is truly a defining event in world history. An event that left the world standing on the edge of precipice, with the number of its reported cases and death toll continuously spiking up to the peak and claiming hundreds of thousands of lives globally. The world was embroiled with the darkest cloud with every nook and cranny of it left untouched. But the experiences that I endured and witnessed from my country South Africa are the ones that brought me to the point of writing this account.
From Thursday the twenty-sixth of March 2020 South Africa entered the lockdown at midnight in the united effort to prevent the spread of this disease while other measures were to be taken to curb it. Things were rolling with the speed of light prior, life was moving with the greatest velocity and the momentum was at the peak. But suddenly everything came to a stop and life was paused for a moment. Silence took the centre stage as the streets were emptied that one could hear a pin dropped on the streets of Pretoria CBD. This was the case for the whole country.
We had to stay inside, and fear had become the order of the day. We looked at nature from the windows and the birds seemed to have finally won. For they were the only ones that could enjoy the luxurious freedom and we could only look at them with envy. With people no longer going to schools and work (except the ones who were called essential workers), neighbours became close, yet so far from each other. Families were left distraught as the prohibition to travel to be with each other was put forward as one of the regulations during this period.
We all had to adjust to a whole new way of living and the technology that was once seen as the common enemy for casual and contact relationships and nature sometimes was now befriended and only it could do justice. We had to settle for our cell phones, computers and TV screens to stay in touch. Thanks to the music, art and literature for keeping us sane. Thanks to the comedians who managed to put smiles on our faces and crack laughter for a moment and help us escape reality for a fraction of a second.
This was truly an unprecedented situation and a tumultuous moment. The period so much unique in our lives, with dreams and aspirations temporarily put on hold and plans for the year being blown. Everything had slowed down, with cars nearly non-existent on the roads. In trying to be inundated from the coronavirus we consumed everything that was made available for us on the internet and TV screens. But not only did we stay informed, but also invited the psychological violence that paid visits to our minds. Although our security forces were put on the streets to remind us to stay home, our minds said it louder. But should the year really be labelled as a year with no activities? Should people really answer the question of what they were doing during this epoch in that they were washing hands like it was said through the memes?
Surely the above questions did pay visits to the mind of the young lad with the name Mpho imposed unto him at birth. Like any other person, Mpho was also affected by the problems that were precluded from the outbreak of this pandemic. He is a young man who was only a waitress at one of the fast food restaurants in the city of Pretoria. As a result, he was abandoned with a lot of time in hands due to this pandemic which literally forced everyone to isolate at home. He had more time to reflect.
He got to befriend his cell phone even more as he spent plenty of his time active on different social media platforms. Initially part of the plan was only to keep the time going but he rationalized what others maybe couldn’t. When they still saw these social media platforms as only the narc’s paradises, he drew inspiration from this space. From the news feeds and stories shared by his friends and followers, Mpho got to realise that people were actually being productive during these trying times. He saw many of them tapping into creativity during the lockdown.
This came to sight when he saw a lady who had been complaining about her fitness for months without having much time to exercise pertaining to her work. She had now been going through a body transformation that she set as a goal for herself with a 30 days challenge. She had only wished to emerge from the lockdown fit and healthy and the good part was that she did not even need any equipment, but an APP downloaded in her phone. This also made her feel more positive during the lockdown.
Michael on the other hand had been improving his cooking skills through online courses that he took. Themba had only wished for years to utilize his talent of writing and now he was finally awarded with the time in hand to manifest this. With the idea that William Shakespeare also wrote King Lear in isolation during the plague, he gained courage and managed to complete his once abandoned pieces of work. He now had a completed manuscript with his first book awaiting publication. Thato and his friends had created an online space where people could share their thoughts. They also provided people with motivational talks and also created extra tutorials for the matriculants with hopes to offer aid for them to do well academically despite their stolen academic time.
Poets from his friends list had a topic to focus on and large sums of attention was paid unto them and comedians. Lerato managed to launch her own Insta iso beauty lessons. The couple that he had known to have always been having conflicts were able to reflect with the time in hand and spending more time together. They were able to resolve their problems and now with the extraordinary and unprecedented bonding family experiences, their children were blessed with the warm home. They found hobbies to play as a family and happily they emerged out of the lockdown.
Mpho also realised the hailed praises to the lockdown house party with the whole of Mzansi invited. The event that was streamed from TV on Channel O from 6pm to midnight every Friday and Saturday. It really was inspiring to see the two DJs, Shimza and PH bringing the party to the homes of the isolated South Africans and hosting some of South Africa’s most loved DJs. Sportsmen and women were seen posting videos and pictures of their home workouts to maintain their fitness and gearing up to hit the pitches once the health crises subsided.
Before long campaigns were launched to spread awareness about this pandemic and to help in curbing it. Harriet has catapulted herself into a stardom, should the film inspired by her script be produced. This kept on getting better and better, more inspiring even every time he logged on these social media platforms. How could all these have not inspired him when even his colleague Chemist who had been known to be shy had started to trend with his videos. Surely, he had time to improve his communication skills and now was able to interact with people.
Martin who always had a musical persuasion had now channelled the emotions into songs and people had fallen in love with his music. Jason also unleashed his creativity in painting and started to share the pictures online with a warm welcoming response from people. Tebogo and her cousin Tshepiso had started writing blogs and journals respectively and this had happened to be a good time to build their audiences as most people spent plenty of their time on cell phones and computer screens. Harriet had transformed her garden into a tranquil space, creating a beautiful spot for that much-needed rest and recuperation and she took pride in taking its pictures to Facebook.
This abrupt break had also given Mrs Mulaudzi an opportunity to do something different from her work at the bank and she could see how passionate she is about teaching through free classes that she offered online. She now was willing to follow her passion. Potlako had been working from home and he was able to save the money that he usually spent on his commute and now he had raised enough money to start his side hustle business that he had been dreaming off.
While others were into trading, others were into coding and those who progressed still posted about it on these social media platforms. From the news feeds and stories again, others told that they were learning other languages online while Thapelo had been posting his daily achievements in his set goals of reading books. He surely achieved one of the goals that he had set from the new year’s resolutions at the beginning of the year. The book club which he is part of never ceased to hold sessions, thanks to the video calls as they were able to conduct a visual book club.
To others the freneticism of life before coronavirus had not taken a break. They continuously sought for opportunities and solutions to the projects that they were working on from their homes. Others saw the created opportunity in starting or boosting their businesses that produced masks, latex gloves and sanitizing detergents as they were in great demand. This was also what kissed Mpho’s mind most because he had always had a business mind and was interested in having his very own one day.
This made him get into the right state of mind to start reflecting more on his dreams. He then became imaginative. But his plans were not only for the period of the lockdown but rather a preparation of the time when this segment was over. He knew that the economy of his country South Africa will like the rest of the other countries be affected negatively. Thus, he began to think of the ideas that will put the economy in a better position to recover. Ideas that would put the economy on the right path to strive collectively towards economic growth and provide more opportunities for employment and business ventures.
With the vision that this could be a great opportunity for South Africa to fix its bottleneck, he saw an immense opportunity for youth or disadvantaged people of South Africa to venture into the business sector and establish new businesses. And in listening to the statement made by the President Cyril Ramaphosa on further economic and social measures in response to the COVID-19 epidemic on the twenty-first of April 2020, Mpho got to know of the additional money that was set aside for the protection and creation of jobs. He then had hope that his ideas would come to life and he then only waited with the drafted business plan for the health crisis to subside.
With all that’s been said from the top of this piece of writing, one can firmly argue that there are positives that came out of this cataclysmic situation. And perhaps it is true when they say that any crisis could be used to stake a positive legacy just as Albert Einstein also said that “in the midst of every crisis lies a great opportunity”. And perhaps this is a message to everyone, that we should not wilt in the face of this storm, but rather lean on the adversity and rethink our development. That we should rather not squander this opportunity but be more innovative and agile in driving change. That it is rather a time for us to create than only just wait to consume.
With the courageous words of Mahatma Gandhi in that “a man is the product of his thoughts, what he thinks he becomes” and of some of the existentialists such as Jean Paul Sartre in that “man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself” we can only gain courage in that we can do it if we visualise it and will to do it. And perhaps we could choose to be grateful for this abrupt break and see this crisis as a good crisis.
We still owe our highest gratitude to those who served out of the spotlight and we can only say thanks heaps to those in the frontline, our medical professionals, our security forces, our leaders, all essential workers and all the people of this country who abided by the rules & regulations of the lockdown and who did anything to help in curbing this pandemic. And like our President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “we shall recover, we shall overcome, and we shall prosper”.
Mother-nature-God bless South Africa, Mother-nature-God Africa and God bless the world.
Blogpost by: Tshepo Masipa Editor: Tokelo Hlagala