It was a joke until it hit home

by Vusizwe Motsa

When the outbreak of an unknown disease was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, nobody really paid much attention and we all thought it was ‘’their disease’’. I remember someone making a joke that China wasted an opportunity to name the virus with a name that recognises its genesis easily, like ‘’Kung-Fu virus’’. A plethora of jokes were made and those ludicrous jokes were funny until the pandemic hit Italy, spreading across the World and eventually our African continent. Suddenly, we woke up and paid attention. It was a joke until it hit home. The same virus that people were naive about was suddenly among us, affecting our own people and rearing its hideous head.

Nowadays, the coronavirus disease 2019, popularly known as COVID-19 and declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020, is causing unfathomable havoc in the whole World. The Kingdom of eSwatini was not spared. Cases are skyrocketing daily and we have surpassed the thousand mark of positive cases, with death cases increasing as well. Since March 2020, when the lockdown was first put into effect, it seemed the right thing to do to combat the spread of the virus. But that also brought new challenges: people lost their jobs, businesses were closed, poverty levels took a dive for the worst, schools and churches were shut down, the economy was abruptly affected, etc.

Since then countries, organisations and individuals have made contributions towards the fight against the pandemic inclusive of cash and equipment. The government has rolled out the food assistance programme for the needy, grants for laid-off workers and other forms of assistance to her citizens. The Government has lifted most of the restrictions in an effort to revive the economy despite that the lives of Emaswati remain at risk as more positive cases are daily being reported. More organisations and individuals are continuing to assist the government. Even the Catholic Church in Eswatini is playing a major role in the fight.

Subsequently, people are suffering, hungry and depressed. Others are unable to provide for their families since they lost their jobs. Poverty is killing our people more than the virus. Against the advice of WHO, both tertiary and high schools have been opened for those doing their final year. Cases of some schools not meeting the safety standards have been reported with some teachers testing positive. Others have adopted online learning. Still the future of thousands of students who are still at home remains uncertain. Suddenly, the future that looked so bright is bleak. Churches have reopened and other businesses as well. Some health facilities do not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) thus putting the lives of the very same people who are supposed to save lives at risk with some even testing positive. Retrenched workers remain uncertain if they will work again. Young people are struggling with depression and uncertainty about their future. Dreams are shattered and hope is fading. These are arduous times.

Above all, the lack of transparency, accountability and corruption continues to engulf some of the good work done by the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini especially during this pandemic. Misappropriation of funds remains a huge factor and so many Emaswati are suffering. Through all these, we remain prayerful and hopeful. Stay safe and follow all the safety precautions for your own good and that of others. We all have a role to play.