Hunger versus COVID? It’s Time To Open Up The Economy Again

When Facing  Potential Hunger Or COVID, I Didn’t Once Think Of COVID

Two weeks ago when things went belly up in Kwazulu Natal with the unsuccessful insurrection, I found myself on the third day worried about where food was going to come from. Our fridge was running empty quickly and I needed to make a plan. I got wind that some courageous store owner was going to try open and heed the call for people’s urgent cry for food so I jumped in my car to wait in the queue in earnest.

Word spread fast and within 30 minutes a couple thousand people must have gathered outside the said retailer. And then it struck me: here we were, almost at the peak of the third COVID wave, and not one person was worried about the crowd. Given the choice between feeding your family and facing COVID, people were very clearly more concerned with the former.

For the first time, were more affluent people getting a taste of what it was like for those who have lost jobs due to COVID and are wondering how they will feed their families?

As of the 27th of July 2021 confirmed positive COVID cases were 2.38million. Tragic COVID deaths are 70,018. But here are other scary facts. Statistics South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey found that in the first months of the hard lockdown (between Feb and April 2020), 2.2million people lost their jobs. Other sources say that this number could be as high as 2.8million. One in every two jobs lost as a result of Covid-19’s economic onslaught was once held by an informal worker which means they did not qualify for UIF payouts. The unemployment rate reached 32.5% in the last months of 2020, the highest since the labour force survey began in 2008.

If you do the basic maths, for almost every positive COVID case, someone has lost a job. The job market has somewhat recovered, prior to the failed insurrection, but there are still 800,000 out of work from those who had previously been employed prior to Covid. With the failed insurrection that number should increase by at least another conservative 150,000 job losses.

Okay I get that had we not locked down, the 2.38million COVID cases may be significantly more, as would the corresponding deaths, but my point is this: when faced with feeding your family or facing COVID I recon most people would choose to feed their families. Adults want jobs. They want purpose and they want peace. Have their extreme frustrations contributed to our current realities?

Trying to impose first world lock down COVID restrictions on poverty stricken continents like Africa is like playing two completely different board games with the same rules. Our African governments don’t have the financial means to back businesses and massive populations like they do in first world countries. Yes, the South African government pays social grants so that hopefully every South African can at least eat every month, but the rest of Africa is not like that at all. We lived in Kenya for 5 years. There are no grants there. If people don’t work, they don’t eat. Depriving an adult of the opportunity to feed their family is desperate and a right that I don’t think anyone should have taken from them.

One massive benefit that came from the failed insurrection attempt was how communities came together and defended our cities from further destruction. People from all walks of life: rich and poor, educated and non-educated came out and played their part. TOGETHER we achieved remarkable results and showed the power that civil society has when we are collectively engaged.

There is a part of me that wonders if outcomes could have been different had we engaged civil society at the start of the COVID outbreak and collectively used our gifts to navigate a new African way forward. Had we not hidden at home, could we have created more jobs by building more hospitals, given more nurses jobs and stimulated the economy with the knock on demands, rather than retract it? I don’t know the right answers but I do know that INCREDIBLE things happen when we engage people and work together. Hiding doesn’t solve anything!

Let me be clear, I support my president 100%. I am a big fan. He has inherited a government that raped and pillaged for a decade. There was always going to be a price to pay from the Zuma era and we are in it now. Cyril is doing his best to navigate our way out of an incredibly difficult reality and it must be super hard not knowing who is for him and who is against him. He is battling the forces of good and evil and there are absolutely great successes he can pride himself in.

My plea to my President would be to please roll out these vaccines as fast as humanely possible (which is very much under way) and please can we open up the economy, let people work and rebuild. Enough of these lock down restrictions. We need freedom. We need to be empowered collectively and every human deserves the right to use their skills to feed their families.

Sources:

MG

MG2

Business Tech

 

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