This was an annus horribilis for everyone the world over. Many things that could go wrong inevitably did. The advent of a hitherto unknown virus caught the world by surprise and turned it upside down.
South Africa was not spared the wrath of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the president pointed out in his most recent address to the nation, we are now heading for 900 000 confirmed infections, and soon it will be 1 million.
Comparatively speaking, our government did put in some good innings in trying to contain the spread of the virus and save lives.
There are countries in the world – particularly developed nations – that failed to take the necessary measures and their citizens paid a high price for it.
Our per capita infections and death rate during the first wave were nothing compared with what the US and countries in western Europe experienced.
Fortunately, they seem to have taken the second wave more seriously and have expeditiously put in place measures to mitigate its spread and reduce deaths.
In this country, the debate will continue for a long time about whether the alcohol and cigarette sales bans, for example, were necessary.
But most of the lockdown measures were useful tools in limiting the potential damage.
An important lesson of Covid-19 was that a change of behaviour by ordinary citizens can make a huge difference in fighting this pandemic.
While there is so much more government can do, this virus can also be defeated by our individual efforts.
BEWARE THE ANTI-VAXXERS
Here’s to hoping that we end the complacency and learn to be patient enough to postpone whatever gatherings we had planned as the second wave of the virus ravages the nation.
May we enter the new year with a mentality to make sacrifices to save ourselves, our loved ones and everyone we may come into contact with.
A big challenge for next year will be dealing with the propaganda and dangerous conspiracy theories being spread by the anti-vaccine movement.
This movement has already cost many lives that have been taken by measles and other preventable diseases around the world.
The movement has now turned its attention to Covid-19 vaccines – even as they were being developed.
Now that some have been given the green light by national and multilateral health authorities, the anti-vaxxers are stepping up the propaganda.
Here at home, it was been given a boost by the demented utterances of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng last week.
This disinformation needs to be fought as diligently as the complacency that resulted in our being hit by a second wave.
MAY THE ANTI-GRAFT BATTLE GAIN STRENGTH
Besides the Covid-19 lessons, here are our wishes for what should remain behind and what we should carry into the new year.
May local politicians realise that this deadly pandemic does not mean an economic opportunity for themselves.
This year saw the looting of funds meant for the provision of personal protective equipment as tenders were dished out to political allies, friends and families with no expertise.
Acquaintances formed companies overnight to facilitate the looting.
We hope that the re-energised Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Special Investigating Unit continue their work to arrest and prosecute the corrupt.
There was a boldness and independence from these law enforcement agencies this year that ordinarily should be par for course.
We hope they continue to be given the space to work.
As the governing ANC holds its national general council in the first half of the new year and the 2022 conference of the party approaches, there is a danger that pressure might be brought to bear on these institutions.
They should remain firm and remember that their mandate is from the citizens and not incumbent politicians. The least this government can do is accelerate the war on corruption.
THE FUTURE IS IN VOTERS’ HANDS
We also hope that all political parties and civil society organisations will join this fight, so that none of the scoundrels who steal from the public find refuge in casting themselves as victims of political persecution.
This country suffered enough through Jacob Zuma’s political theatrics and cannot afford the distractions any more.
The local government elections take place next year.
Local government is the system closest to the communities and we hope citizens will grab this opportunity to revive the collapsed municipalities.
The Auditor-General showed that, over the years, financial systems and the governance capacity of most municipalities have been deteriorating.
Wasteful and irregular expenditure has become the name of the game.
Voters have a powerful opportunity to change all that by voting for competence rather than uncritical loyalty.