Back to the Basics Now!
Go back to your households, your homes, your families. Go back to the place of resilience, of strength, of support—or possibly go back to the place of dysfunction, of anxiety, of pain. The president has spoken—decisively.
Some 73 000 troops were rallied, philanthropists have been emerging and people have been soothed, temporarily at least.
South Africa is ahead of the game in the coronavirus crisis, with government communications managed, testing scaled up, world accolades for following the rules, temporary housing for the homeless, social grants distributed, and the banking sector reflective rather than demanding.
However, families across South Africa must ask: “Go back to what and whom and under what conditions?”
If ever there was a moment in postapartheid South African history, when the role of family should be advocated for, now is that moment.
The family has overnight become government’s “go-to” for the education of children, sharing of resources, care for vulnerable persons.
And families are left dealing with grave uncertainties relating to household economy and personal survival, whether that be paying rent, a bond, acquiring electricity, water and data to stay connected, food, personal and hygiene products—all without knowing when this will end.
The huge infrastructure projects, bailouts of state-owned entities, junk status and the 55% of South Africans who live in poverty have all become secondary to the might of the security cluster who are charged with keeping us in our homes, with our families.
And they do so despite the lack of water and sanitation in many communities, despite the forced close proximity of crowded townships and informal-sector living, all of which are ideal conditions for the breeding of viruses and spreading of disease.
Hunger before Covid-19
While the Covid-19 crisis might be exacerbating hunger, poverty and unemployment, it was not their cause. The government’s White Paper on Families (2013) details three key objectives:
– Enhance the socialising, caring, nurturing and supporting capabilities of families so that their members are able to contribute effectively to the overall development of the country;
– Empower families and their members by enabling them to identify, negotiate around, and maximise economic, labour market, and other opportunities available in the country; and
– Improve the capacities of families and their members to establish social interactions which make a meaningful contribution towards a sense of community, social cohesion and national solidarity.
Where does this leave us?
In a state of lockdown while a policy that was published in 2013 remains just a locked-down policy.
Putting on the family lens provides an opportunity to look beyond Covid-19. South Africa must pay attention to placing families at the centre of development. Role players—including bishops, pastoral councils, clergy and active citizen families—must be vociferous in how we build a post-Covid-19 nation.
Go back to the basics. Improve the conditions of households and families that reside in those four walls. Strengthened families have a critical role in implementing a rebooted socio-economic system.
A family focus is the catalyst for change. Now is the time to implement the White Paper on Families. Now is the moment!