A desperate call for progressive young leaders to join the fight against Covid-19

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As young people, we need to wake up and break out of this festive bubble to take up the responsibility and protect our people from the pandemic. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
As young people, we need to wake up and break out of this festive bubble to take up the responsibility and protect our people from the pandemic. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

VOICES


I doubt there is a single person, young or old, who doesn’t look forward to a fun and festive time during December.

However, our conscience must speak to us differently in times when we become the architects of pain, grief and endless bereavements across the country.

Surely we should all ask: “Ziphi na izazela zethu [where is our conscience]?”

This fundamental question is significant as we deliberately numb our humanity by constantly offering condolences every morning, but then go out each evening to recklessly break the Covid-19 coronavirus restrictions that aim to arrest the rapid spread of the virus that causes these painful deaths.

In essence, our humanity will prove to be dead every time we consciously do not a wear mask, fail to wash our hands regularly, party in crowded spaces and completely disregard the fact that our own actions are causing havoc in our communities.

Listening to and reading countless reports in mainstream and social media, it is quite clear that the current rapid spread of Covid-19 cannot be separated from our reckless behaviour.

Prevention is better than hospitalisation, ventilation and mass burials.

It comes as no surprise that this virus is spreading at an alarming rate among young people.

As much as it may not be surprising, it also begs the question: Doesn’t the vacuum left by the lack of leadership of young people in the country contribute negatively to the socioeconomic stability of South Africa?

In this instance, there is clearly a disturbing and painfully huge lack of consistent and progressive youth mobilisation in the fight to defeat the killer virus.

Apart from very few notable efforts from some progressive youth formations, the reality is that the leadership vacuum is beginning to have a destructive effect on our society.

Read: Groove spot owners fear further festive season losses

Surely this moment is begging for progressive young people to provide the necessary leadership to their generation.

Prevention is better than hospitalisation, ventilation and mass burials.

At times of great challenge, throughout the struggles against colonisation and apartheid, there were countless youthful festivities, but, equally, there was a competent and programmatic youth leadership always organising and mobilising progressive consciousness among young people and calling for patriotism, which places the interests of our country above our own.

There was once leadership of young people that did not fear being unpopular for stating hard facts in the face of popular foolishness as the struggle for liberation deepened.

As young people, we know ourselves and our peers. What they like is what we like; what they do is what we do; what they enjoy is what we enjoy.

We cannot achieve any of these noble ideals if our society is wiped out by Covid-19 as a result of our inability to seize the moment history has given us to defend the lives of our people.

If we are indeed so relevant among our peers, why are none of us raising alarm bells in the lounges, clubs, chisa nyamas and parties we go to?

Where is our agency to mobilise a movement counter to the festivities listed above, and instead participate in virtual celebrations that promote safety and assist in the fight to defeat Covid-19?

We are so good at using hashtags, even for some of the most meaningless things, but why aren’t we making popular hashtags and slogans on #StayingHome, #StayingSafe, #HlalaEndliniUbumnandiAbupheli (#StayHomeFunWillNeverEnd)? Where is our agency in terms of mobilising media companies, broadcasters, business, government and artist management companies to collaborate to creatively provide entertainment to all South Africans in the comfort and safety of our own homes during this difficult time?

This moment is exposing us.

If we do not wake up and break out of this festive bubble to take up the responsibility and protect our people – and the future of our country – from this Covid-19 second wave, the effects of the virus may cripple the chances of our generation to defeat the terrible triplet – poverty, unemployment and inequality.

This is a defining moment for our generation.

No leader in the country and globally can truly claim they know what will happen after Covid-19 is brought under control.

This is an opportunity for us to lead society into the future we want, and turn the situation around by becoming architects of a better life for all.

Read: Pervasive contradictions and colluding narratives

We cannot achieve any of these noble ideals if our society is wiped out by Covid-19 as a result of our inability to seize the moment history has given us to defend the lives of our people and thus begin restoring their livelihoods.

Sadly, the old guard cannot be trusted with this important mission because of their inability to look beyond their subjective and objective weaknesses.

It is our generation that needs to lead the fight against Covid-19. This places the task of navigating our country through these difficult and painful moments squarely on us as “young lions”.

We dare not fail the masses. We are the leaders we have been waiting for.

Let’s provide the necessary leadership to defeat Covid-19 now.

Mba is a PhD candidate at Nelson Mandela University and researcher for the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders. Bashman is a former student activist and former regional chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Dullah Omar region in the Western Cape. They write in their personal capacities


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