After bagging a total of nine books during the lockdown of 2020, I thought the coast was clear. I was looking forward to a relaxed period when I would attend to other life issues beyond writing books.
I did observe that I took advantage of the 2020 lockdown to focus on increasing the tally of books that I have written to date. I have no regrets at all about what I did. With regard to Writing Covid-19, my focus has been to deal with the impact of the pandemic on African culture, with regard to both the African worldview and African cultural practices.
I was hoping by the end of year we would have crossed the river, that like some countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world our lips would be graced with words such ‘jab,’ ‘vaccine’, ‘vaccinate’, ‘vaccination clinics,’ with their Heads of State taking the lead to avail themselves to the jab that holds hope for the end to the coronavirus pandemic.
Countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Germany, Italy, China and Israel, among others, have started rolling out the vaccines developed by pharmaceutical firms and universities in their countries.
There is also some indication that there is lukewarm reception to the jab, particularly in France. Some people are suspicious of vaccines, for reasons best known to themselves. Their President is not amused by the slow uptake in comparison to neighbouring countries.
The virus seems cleverer than we had reckoned. The organism is mutating and thrusting new variants which may resist the formulations that have been developed.
While this is taking place outside of Africa, there is deafening silence on the African continent. We hear nothing about our leaders rolling up their shirt sleeves to receive the much-hyped about jab. It has not happened and it is unlikely to happen in the very near future.
The best we can do is to look forward to some donations after their own citizens have received the jab and developed immunity. We shall be approaching them begging bowl in hand and chant their praises and eulogies regarding their ways of doing things.
The situation as it stands now is that we are back to lockdown, as severe as the first one in March 2020. The question we may pose is whether our borders are porous and allow visitors from our neighbouring countries where the coronavirus is having some field day. Our economic situation could very well be fuelling the spread of the coronavirus.
There are many of our own people who are crossing the border to South Africa in search of the greener pastures. South Africa has even deployed monitoring helicopters along the border to keep tabs on the illegal crossings taking place across the Limpopo River.
Where there is unemployment and poor salaries that is an ideal condition for corruption to thrive. One way or the other Covid-19 certificates will be made available to those who need the paper documents to facilitate their movement across the border.
Omalayitsha, the transporters are an important feature across the border. Again, their being a feature is traceable to our economic situation. They facilitate the illegal crossing of some youth intending to go and seek employment at various places in South Africa including working on potato plantations within the Limpopo Province.
Back home there are many dependents who are financially supported by their children working in South Africa.
Various assortment of goods are brought into Zimbabwe by omalayitsha and delivered at the doorsteps of the recipients’ homesteads in various parts of the country. Thus, the traffic is quite heavy and the virus takes advantage of the steady flow of transporters and injiva.
In South Africa itself, some Zimbabweans live under squalid conditions at places such as Berea. Social distancing becomes a big challenge. The virus seems to love those who maintain close contact with each other.
In Zimbabwe itself there are people who are still incredulous regarding the virus. There are many people who have not known anyone who has succumbed to the coronavirus. It all sounds like joyous fiction, unlike HIV/Aids whose impact was more telling.
There are some people who seem to have relaxed and began pursuing the ‘nice times’ totally oblivious of the dangers to which they were exposing themselves and others.
The result has been a spike in the reported cases of Covid-19. It is the spike that has led to the reintroduction of the more severe lockdown that will keep us indoors initially for a period of one -month to the end of January 2021.
This comes with terrible social and economic costs.
The cultural costs are likewise immense. Africans being a gregarious people that value social solidarity are the hardest hit. This time of year is characterised by agricultural activities. Weeds have to be eliminated expeditiously.
Work parties are arranged to expedite weeding. That entails a community getting together in what are known as amalima.
Villagers work together in a crop field so that they take advantage of numbers to eliminate the weeds at a critical stage where crop yields would otherwise have been compromised.
In addition, for the assistance rendered the owner of the crop field provides various food items or beverages such as amahewu, beer, meat. Much more than food, what is critically important is social solidarity through which a neighbour is assisted. This is an expression of the Ndebele proverb that says ‘hands wash each other’ (izandla ziyagezana).
Food is some mere icing on the economic cake of getting together to help each other. The villagers do observe those who do not come to lend a hand. If they do not wash other people’s hands, they should not expect other people’s hands to wash theirs.
This rain season has been uncharacteristically wet. That promoted the heightened growth of luxuriant weeds which choke the crops unless amalima are resorted to. It is not everyone who has a tractor that may be used to eliminate the weeds. Nor is it everyone who can afford to purchase weed chemicals. The majority of people in the communal lands depend on the ages-old socio-economic arrangement referred to above which taps into the African virtue of social solidarity and the recognition of the fact that ‘hands wash each other.’
Social distancing may be a challenge when the rural folk get together. Even izayeke, the name used for face masks, are hardly worn in those areas. The communal areas are vast with each district having a limited number of police camps and their satellites. The ratio of one police officer to the number of villagers may exceed 1:5 000 (a conservative estimate).
Where the presence of police officers ensures compliance where there are such ratios compliance is farfetched. I was at my rural home during the festive season and I never saw a single mouth graced with a face mask. I was in Rome where I felt obliged to do as Romans do. If you can’t beat them, you join them. I found myself doing precisely that lest I be labelled a social misfit, a snob from Bulawayo!
When I set off to pen this article, my intention was to make some appreciation of the similarity between the logo for the coronavirus and some African hairstyles. I failed to get to that. So, you may expect the next article to deal with that.