Reflection on The South Africa’s Covid-19 Risk Adjusted Strategy

Attention: The National Coronavirus Command Council and the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-1.

The 27th of April 2020 marks the 26th year since South Africa attained political independence. In celebration of this day and responding to COVID-19 Risk Adjusted Strategy, I penned a perspective to situate the comments in context. Below is my humble contribution as per the invitation by the lockdown committee

I have emailed this with deliberate intentions of contributing to the building of the democracy of South Africa and sharing of ideas which will advance its growth and protection. I wrote these suggestions and recommendations with highest level of intellectual generosity, emotional sensitivity and cultural humility. I hope the perspectives will be deliberated and/or considered for implementation and incorporation by the relevant authorities and stakeholders.

The ideas address the Risk Adjusted.
Strategy –Level 4, some aspects which are inclusive but not exclusive of points F, G, O and P. The contribution encompasses critical points of consideration which I explore in no order of importance. The responses are themed as follows: communication of information and language barrier; indigenous knowledge systems and cultural sensitivity; alternatives ways to fight COVID-19 and Madagascar remedy; Communications and Telecommunications Ministry
mandate during and post COVID-19. Prior to unfolding the views, I wish to congratulate the government of South Africa and all forces in the forefront of fighting the pandemic so far, including the Cuban people for demonstrating solidarity in the true sense of the word.

The efforts are clear indication that there is capacity and we are led. However, there is also an opportunity for growth and diverse voices to come forth. It is from this perspective that we attend not at length but briefly to some of the concerns hoping they will be given the much necessary and urgent attention. I unpack and unearth perspectives which I think have been buried and lift them to the surface.

Communication of Information and Language Barrier.
Firstly, during this time of pandemic, there has been consistent communication from the government. It must be noted that, the communication from the Presidency and related Ministers via press conferences and online platforms have been predominantly in one language, and that is, English. The majority of people in the townships and rural areas need to be communicated with languages they understand, so that they too can receive firsthand information from authority. Our leadership must speak the language of the masses to avoid unnecessary violence as we have seen
with the people of Alexandra. Leaders must speak to the people in the languages that are accessible to the majority of the people. The same way the people are engaged during elections campaigns, it is not too much to ask.

My reading is that, our grandparents and many young people who have never seen the doors of post-secondary education struggle to comprehend your announcements and updates and therefore do not act as per your communications. We therefore recommend that the Presidency and related Ministers and task team to make an effort to publish the speeches and announcements in all indigenous languages of South Africa. This task is very easy to be achieved and will not require any new budget. The African National Congress (ANC) as the party that is in governance has a “moria” of volunteers who are not only talented but equal to the task to translate and share this
information wildly. The website of COVID-19 must be updated in all languages also, this will demonstrate the capacity of the governing party in leading society and not some members of society. As things stand, the message is only for select few who are from white communities, black middle classes and have obtained a degree somewhere.

For example, the very same people who did door to door delivering shirts must embark on an intellectual duty of translating the pertinent information to ensure it reaches all people in every corner of South Africa. They must
carry out this revolutionary task of ensuring the ordinary people get information during these extraordinary times. This is a task that must be fulfilled by the ruling party as it have already been voted.

My view is that, as more people are able to access this information in their languages, they will have appetite to read and understand. In addition, translating content in all indigenous language will contribute to a cultural revolution and democratic practices which will indeed highlight that all languages are equal. Failure to act on this matter will be a clear act of abandoning and undermining democracy and indigenous languages of South Africa (Azania). This will also be a way of preserving the languages of South Africa which are slowly being abandoned and eroded. The struggle continues, there is still long way to go, the struggle is now not only for economic emancipation, but that of total emancipation.

Indigenous knowledge systems cultural sensitivity.
Secondly, we have heard on countless occasions the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa for the nation to pray. As someone who prays and was raised by a praying family, I am worried about President Cyril Ramaphosa seems to privilege only one way of spiritual engagement and intervention, prayer in this case. It is insensitive and undemocratic to not mention other ways of spiritual engagements for other groups of our diverse democratic South Africa. President is urged not to privilege his own belief systems, which he evidently shares with the majority.President must encourage the nation to observe spiritual interventions in whatever shape and form the
public deems fit during this period of our lives. This will ensure that those who do not believe in prayer are not excluded from the national agenda. The fight is not for some, it is for all.

The President must encourage our African spiritual healers to intervene spiritually. The President must also not only  rely on pharmaceutical companies as the only hope for our crisis. Our democracy dictates for him to involve Dingaka and Sangomas to come to the fore and reveal what the bones are saying and which herbs we must drink that are freely available on the mountains and forest, so that rural people can safeguard their health. The beauty about
indigenous herbs is that, they are not packaged for profit, they are readily available on the mountains and forests of our ancestors. The magic about indigenous herbs is that, they are not only for the elites, but are for all because they are freely available.We encourage President Matamela to lead all people regardless of their belief systems and religious affiliations among other things. Ke tle boela morago ka maina a mararo, ke hlompha le Badimo, le bao ba sa dumelego go selo. Se segolo ke bophelo.

Alternatives ways to fight of COVID-19 and Madagascar remedy.
Thirdly, Madagascar has made progress in ensuring their citizens are using a remedy that their team has produced and reports have also announced that Senegal has placed orders for the remedy. We appeal to President to appreciate the efforts of people of Madagascar and through relevant authorities place an order. If there are citizens who are willing to volunteer to use the remedy, they should be allowed to do so, this will be a demonstration of respect for capacity of the African people in addressing global catastrophe. People should be given options, those who want vaccine will take the vaccine and those who want Madagascar remedy will indulge on the remedy. Perhaps in the next public engagement, the President can brief us on this matter. The silence on the remedy as an option will mean the President only privileges western form of medical interventions. As a rural person, I lived among spiritual healers and I saw with my eyes when they healed people who the modern hospital failed dismally in attending to their needs. Here, we are but just recommending alternatives. Let us explore as many options as possible.

Ministry of Communications and Telecommunications.
Fourthly, Ministry of Communications and Telecommunications must be given a fundamental task now and beyond the pandemic to privilege all people of South Africa in their communication as we mark 26th years of democracy. It cannot be that 26 years after gaining political freedom we use predominantly one language when we have 11 official languages. Next time, the President can use his home language when they address us, and have subtitles like in
Generations and Skeem Saam for others to read. The communications and speeches must also attach links for supplementary resources so that citizens can learn more about some of the concepts and ideas that are new during this period. This will show that we are concerned about educating the citizens. This will help us be in par with President and other public officials to hold them accountable, above all, this will be the highest form of democratic practice and indeed equal treatment of languages and their people.

In sum, it may help to mobilize either Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi or Ace Magashule to sing before one of President Ramaphosa’s upcoming speeches or briefing as they have a proven track record and demonstrated capacity as singers of note. The aforementioned cannot match former President Jacob Zuma, however, I wish not to task you with inviting Ubaba, since he has served well. The invitation of either the aforementioned or any other political “Brenda Fassie” will also highlight above all your capacity to “live in disagreement” with others as we have been taught by Prof Njabulo S Ndebele in the book “Fine Lines from the Box.” The singers must do it voluntarily
without invoicing you, they must just sing for a mere five minutes to inspire hope and confidence among the masses.

I hope that these views and ideas will be given some consideration and thought, they are not the most noblest of ideas, however, I felt compelled to share from the deep bottom of my heart, writing from a place far away from home in the call you have made and celebrating 26 years of South African Democracy.

Hold the ground and carry on! Ga ebe kgotso.
Mafule Moswane is a Graduate Teaching Assistant and a Ph.D in Leadership Communication student at Stanley School of Leadership Studies, Kansas State University.

Dzur, Albert W. Democracy Inside: Participatory Innovation in Unlikely Places. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. Ndebele, N. (2011). Fine lines from the box. Penguin Random House South Africa. The draft framework can be accessed on: risk-adjusted-strategy/

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