COVID-19 puts a spotlight on the plight of millions of South Africans who are living in poverty. They don’t have access to decent healthcare and sanitation. They live in shacks. The lucky ones have jobs far from their homes. Even the lucky ones know hunger intimately. Unless our country tackles this problem with the urgency it deserves, the wealth of all remains at risk.
If we take something away from this lockdown, it is that if there is a will, there is a way. If we can send a whole nation home to protect our most vulnerable, and rally funds from billionaires, and get politicians to buy into the solution, why can we not rally a whole nation to lift the poorest from their plight?
Why can’t we solve this problem with the urgency needed? How loud do we want these people to protest before we pay enough attention? And yes, it is complicated, but I say again, where there is a will there is a way.
Right now, we’re allowing our painful past, our disagreements, our differences and our pursuit of wealth to get in the way of caring enough. We see the poverty-stricken as separate from ourselves and our wellbeing, but they’re not. We are at risk, because of their plight.
This plea is to all of us – you, me, politicians, captains of industry, church leaders, society leaders and trendsetters – look up from what you are doing. If we don’t fix this, whatever we are doing will be interrupted, just like the virus is interrupting our lives now. Only, it could be much worse.
Do we care enough? Do we have the will? The current reality suggests not.