Guest Column

OPINION | Covid-19 and Ramadan: A time for great vigilance and reflection

2020-05-01 13:59
Muslims in New York prepare for Ramadan. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

Muslims in New York prepare for Ramadan. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

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In his Freedom Day address to the nation, President Ramaphosa highlighted that the privileged cannot continue to ignore the plight of the poor in South Africa, writes Muhammed Khalid Sayed.


As millions of Muslims around the globe experience the most holy month of the Islamic calendar, the lockdown conditions under which we live do help us to spend a bit more time reflecting about our world. 

Certainly one of the most striking thoughts that has preoccupied my mind over the past few weeks, even before the start of Ramadan, was what the Western Cape, our beloved province, would look like after Covid-19.

Some have suggested life would never be the same again. Once our scientists have invented a vaccine and we pick up the pieces, it cannot be that we return to the old way of doing things. 

In fact, the past couple of weeks has certainly shown for humanity and South Africans in particular the best of itself and the terrible structural challenges that continue to persist. 

Alongside hunger and deprivation, we have seen great generosity with communities mobilising and feeding each other. As inequality and poverty stared at us, we often saw those who do not have much reach out and ensure that the poor and unemployed are seen to. 

However, we have also once again been awoken to the real reality of the plight of our young people and in some instances their addictions to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. 

We commend the administration of President Cyril Ramaphosa for their interventions and hope that this assistance will translate into ensuring a boosting of the SMME sector, the engine room, of any economy.

We welcome the interim measure to provide a grant to those who are unemployed. 

As we already knew before the onslaught of Covid-19, millions of young people were unemployed and we trust that our ANC-led government will be even more enthusiastic now to implement the structural reforms of the 54th National Conference of the ANC by immediately ensuring that radical socio-economic transformation is brought about.

In fact when announcing the above measures, President Ramaphosa spoke about the need for radical socio-economic transformation.  

There should be little doubt that the immediate roll-out of the national health insurance is one such pillar of radical socio-economic transformation. 

But again, the question comes to mind: what will the Western Cape look like after Covid-19?

As the numbers of those positively infected continue to rise rapidly in our province, the words of two of our leaders struck me and in those words one found a possible answer.

We do not know what the Western Cape will look like, for no none can see into the future. But we can bring about a better Western Cape. 

In his Freedom Day address to the nation, President Ramaphosa highlighted that the privileged cannot continue to ignore the plight of the poor in South Africa. 

As one of the provinces with the highest levels of inequality, this message is particularly apt for the Western Cape. 

Our province hosts some of the priciest real estate on the African continent while at the same time has one of the highest incidents of tuberculosis and fetal alcohol syndrome in the world.

Even the delivery of public services such as education, health, crime prevention, economic assistance, among others, displays the high levels of inequality in services.

We must work, for example, towards the end of the need for children in our townships and rural areas to travel far distances simply to receive a quality education.

The second leader whose words inspired me was the Secretary-General of the ANC, Ace Magashule, who, in his online OR Tambo memorial lecture, called on young people to hold older leaders to account. 

Appealing to the examples of Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Lilian Ngoyi, the Secretary-General called on the ANC Youth League not to fear challenging the ANC.

Therefore the words of Ramaphosa and Magashule complement each other when they suggest to us, as young people, that we must work together to challenge the elders when the need arises, in whatever political party or organisation we find ourselves in, to ensure that we address our structural challenges such as inequality, poverty and unemployment. 

This is our province, together we must tackle the challenges and grab the opportunities notwithstanding our different party-political and organisational affiliations. 

What does the Western Cape look like after Covid-19?

It is a province where all young people take the lead in ensuring that we no longer are trapped by past privilege and where one’s future is not determined by which community you are born into - a Western Cape where all young people will be free and working. 

- Muhammed Khalid Sayed MPL is the Chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape and the ANC Deputy-Chief Whip in the Provincial Legislature. 

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  ace maga­shule  |  pandemic  |  coronavirus  |  ramadan
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