Finally, the sun is lugubriously dipping into 2021’s horizon. In just another eight days, the light will fade on this year, marking the end of one COVID year, and vividly casting a low, enormous, haunting, and menacing shadow on the next. As we guardedly draw the curtains on this year, many would agree that 2021 stands out as the longest year in modern history, at least in the recent past. Reminiscent of Murphy’s law, everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.
Unemployment continued to rise amidst an environment characterised by the collapse of businesses, many at SME level. Despite all efforts expended in the sourcing of vaccines by African governments, developed countries continued to selfishly hoard vaccines, leaving millions in developing and emerging economies exposed and vulnerable.
Ironically, statistics reveal that it is the inhabitants of developed countries who disproportionately fell to the ugly monster, abruptly demised in unimaginably high numbers, principally because of a strong antivaxx community that was deceived by the proliferation of subversive conspiracy theories from medical professionals and laymen alike.
Not that we would ever want our veins to pop up with the unhealthy spirit of pure schadenfreude. We pride ourselves in the attribute of compassion that has always defined us as a nation.
Like us, citizens of developed nations have been created in the image of God and deserve to live just as much as we do. It would defy sense to revel in their misfortune. Our view, which has been shaped by a sense of moral leadership embraced over centuries, has always mattered, and will always matter. Of course, we too were not spared. To this day, we continue to lose many of our compatriots, perched at all levels of the socio-economic strata.
Worldwide, this is the beginning of the festive season. A short period for loosening up, unwinding, and refreshing. However, it seems this season is only ushering in a bewildering hotchpotch of moods, a few upbeat, but many morose. Undeniably, a spectre of pessimism looms in the horizon and the atmosphere reeks of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety.
Telling that the air is dense with the distinctive and ubiquitous pungent odour of the dreaded coronavirus is a no-brainer. From a ‘distance’ of eight days, you do not need to be blessed with the best of nasal nerves to tell that 2022 already smells like another annus horribilis. Yes, another COVID year is approaching, a salutary reminder that it is not over yet. Sadly, for now, our defence strategy against a measly virus that weighs less than a millionth of a trillionth of a gram is confined to pumping more vaccines into our bodies and in the process taking comfort in the revision of the definition of ‘fully vaccinated.’
The war against the virus rages on, but for now, even a blind man can tell that we seem to be on the losing camp, a clear reflection of the fact that we have fallen into dire straits!
If history continues to repeat itself as it has frequently done in the past, the beastly nature of COVID-19 can only get worse. Remember how the initial strain evolved into more dangerous variants.
The Delta variant, that decimated lives that were full of promise in Botswana from July through to September 2021 came to the fore in May 2021, and hardly six months thereafter, Omicron raised its toxic head and displaced Delta as the dominant strain of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this has affected hundreds of our compatriots.
Call me pessimistic if you like, but I would say I anchor my views about the world solely on reality. In my view, pessimists are those who, against all reason and factual evidence, choose to see life through a gigantic but subjective and scrambled prism that can only disperse dazzling but fractured and confusing beams of fantasy. Yes, the air is fraught with negativity.
From an epidemic confined to China in December 2019, two years down the line, COVID-19 has transformed into a pandemic that has claimed lives of approximately 5.4 million people worldwide, and nearly 2,500 of these are not just cold statistics, but people known and loved by our fellow citizens. In light of the harrowing effects of the virus, even the so-called eternal optimists are struggling to stoke the flames of hope. Should it surprise us if the government chooses to tighten the screws, not because authorities relish the curtailing of our much-cherished civil liberties, but purely out of a desire to save lives? Not at all!
Prevention of a foreseeable disaster is always much better than living with the ghastly consequences of such a disaster. True, no one wants to be caged. But just as many for the sake of restoring their health would happily walk into a surgical suite and endure the temporary pain of allowing an experienced surgical team to use scalpels and scissors to eviscerate diseased organs in their body, shouldn’t we be happy to temporarily forfeit our liberties if this would save lives?
We can take solace in reflecting on some of our proverbs. One that readily comes to mind is, e re o bona bodiba jo bo jeleng ngwana wa ga mmaago o bo kekoge.
Life is not about learning from the school of hard knocks. Willingness to learn from the unfortunate experiences of others can help us avert falling into the same unenviable and perhaps deadly space. Most of us can call to mind some people whose lackadaisical attitude towards the observance of COVID-19 protocols led to their avoidable demise.
Another helpful proverb is, fifing go tshwaranwa ka dikobo, meaning that in difficult times, people normally succeed by contending with challenges as a single united force. More than ever before, the time is ripe for us to handhold our loved ones and to encourage them to desist from doing anything that could endanger their lives.
When we face patent prejudice from developed nations, demonstrated by the hoarding of vaccines and the barring of our fellow citizens from traveling to their countries, though hard to swallow, we can take solace in three proverbs, lemme le gaisa lefifi, gaabo motho go thebe phatshwa, and legolo la moeng, la mong wa gae le pitikwa ke dikhukhwane. While delivery of vaccines was delayed, we eventually received some, though of course insufficient, and for this we are grateful.
The last two proverbs remind us of this painful truth, that we cannot always expect to be treated in the same way that developed nations treat their citizens in their home countries. Save for a few principled individuals and advocacy groups, our relationship with them has largely been punctuated by guileful, unsympathetic, and frosty moments. As the challenges confronting mankind demand billions of dollars in capital investment and qualified human capital to carryout research, we have reason to believe that with the passing of time, being treated as equals can only become exponentially harder.
Wouldn’t we be stretching the notion of credulity too far if we ever got sucked up by empty self-deception, hoodwinking ourselves into believing that the egomaniacs would suddenly pivot from their vice-like grip on a position they have held for centuries and initiate the process of prioritising our interests?
Need we be reminded that phokoje ga a ke a latlha mosesele e le wa one! While the developed nations were on a discrimination drive, we recalled the abiding principle highlighted in the proverb, o se tshege yo o weleng, mareledi a sa le pele, cautioning against the evil practice of taking pleasure at the misfortune of others. It did not take long before the highly transmissible Omicron hit their shores, infecting more people than in our country. Of course, we do not take pleasure in the pain and suffering of others, and we wish all affected individuals a speedy recovery.
For those of us who have not yet contracted COVID-19, let us not fool ourselves into believing that we are a special breed, and it would certainly be presumptuous to claim that we are God’s favourite children. If we remember these words of wisdom, we would not be complacent, maru a senang tladi malebatsa, meaning that we tend to forget how dangerous something is, only because we have not suffered the harm involved.
How wise it would be for all of us never to be lulled into a false sense of security, but to do all we can to show respect for the sanctity of life. That way, even if we were to die, people will be comforted by the thought that, mhinyana o a swa, selepe se sale, meaning a great legacy survives physical death.
May good sense prevail this festive season, and while we may be keen to say, ngwaga o sa nthateng kgabaganya, we cannot afford to be naïve. Let’s maintain a reasonable degree of cautious optimism about 2022.