A great of mine friend, Max, buried two members of his family this past Friday – his aunt and his niece. He said words I have heard over and over during this epidemic: “I am the elder in the family, now.”
This means that, because he is now the eldest, everything rests on his shoulders.
Phakama put it more poignantly: “I have to go to the funeral. I have no more uncles to hide behind.”
As I sat down to write this column, I got a WhatsApp message from my nephew, Relebogile, saying: “Gogo’s funeral is on Friday.”
He was referring to my aunt, Auntie Thoko.
In my family, we’ve had six funerals already, including my mother’s. My brother counted 21 family friends who we could always count on in times of bereavement. I have lost count of friends on social media who’ve reported the death of a loved one.
This is not a war – that word being used to describe Covid-19 is misleading and irresponsible because, firstly, in a war, non-combatants, especially women and children, are protected by the Geneva Convention, at least in theory. This virus does not discriminate.
Secondly, in a war, citizens have no defence against the technological lethality that kills them from kilometres away. The virus has no legs, as the famous Dr Victor Ramathesele reminds us. People do. It is the people who are spreading it.
Sceptics will say there are many people who have not been killed by the Covid-19 coronavirus, but that does not matter. Right now, we have more funerals than we can cope with. As for our leaders, they have shown that they are less alive than the dead, and they are heartless and comical, and their names have already been inscribed in the hall of infamy.
When it was reported that Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe was battling Covid-19, some people on social media rooted for him to die. No. We should not allow any crisis to kill our souls.
We should all wish Mantashe and his wife, Nolwandle, a speedy recovery. That is what ubuntu demands of us, and we must obey, understanding that to elevate them would be to dishonour the dead.
Before the seeds germinate, the soil must be right. To fix our country, we must recultivate our society and weed out the unessentials. There was a time when people said: “Money makes the world go round.”
The coronavirus has shown us that nature could lock us down and the world would continue to go round.
This is the time to revalue our relationships the way accountants revalue the assets of an organisation.
We need to know who and what is important to us, and how important we are to them.
We also need to re-evaluate our relationships with our possessions and see how important we are to them. If they can exist without us, they must come down to the lower rungs of our lives.
Corruption and blind loyalty are not the real sicknesses facing South Africa. The real problem is deliberate forgetfulness. We have forgotten that our freedom was achieved through heroic sacrifices.
We forgave too easily and we still forgive too easily.
The political leaders who have their snouts deep in the trough also got their riches too easily. They were invited to BEE deals because of their proximity to power. They have never had to disarm a recalcitrant customer.
So we need to re-evaluate our relationships with the truth, forgetfulness and forgiveness.
Prosecute the apartheid criminals who are still in our midst, no matter how old they may be.
Compensate the families who lost their land, pay reparations to the families who suffered during apartheid, and arrest those who were corrupt before and after apartheid ended.
As the old saying goes: “Forgiving is prejudice against the victims.” We are the custodians of the future of our children, and we must take our role seriously.
Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency