It is time to stop pointing the finger at what everyone else is doing during lockdown that is not to your personal satisfaction.

Lockdown is proving to be one of the toughest situations that South Africans have faced physically, emotionally and financially in post-apartheid years. We are facing daily challenges regarding the rules and regulations of lockdown, our biggest issue being the behaviour of others during this time.

South Africa’s history is rife with struggle that has been overcome largely through protests and strikes. Writing in The Mercury in June, 2017, research fellow at University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Sciences, Imraan Buccus, said: “There isn’t any other country where there is a similar level of ongoing urban unrest.” He described South Africa as the “protest capital of the world”.

The coronavirus pandemic has prevented South Africans from physically protesting their dissatisfaction over the rules and regulations imposed on them by the government during lockdown. Instead, South Africans have taken to social media to express their concerns.

Facebook and Twitter have been flooded with ‘Dear Mr President’ letters addressed to Cyril Ramaphosa, by authors from a range of classes, races, provinces, professions and ages.

Media personality, Gareth Cliff, and CEO of advertising agency M&C Saatchi Group, Mike Abel, penned letters saying “enough is enough” and that the lockdown, even at current level 4 status, is impractical.

Other themes on social media are:

  • Keep smoking banned/ unban smoking;
  • Extend the lockdown exercise hours/ revoke the exercise hours;
  • People are not following the rules/ people are following the rules;
  • People are stockpiling/ people are going hungry;
  • People want to go back to work/ people do not want to go back to work;
  • People want freedom/ people cannot handle freedom. 

All make good points either way of the pendulum, providing South Africans with a scenario where there is no correct answer for each situation.

A researcher with the National Research Council of Canada and expert in human behaviour during stressful situations, Guylène Proulx, noted in a 2002 paper that individuals exposed to an emergency environment, “will feel some form of stress regardless of their age, gender, past experience, training or cultural background”, and says that stress is a “necessary state to motivate reaction and action”. 

Since Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster mid-March, South Africans have been extremely stressed and, as Proulx said, could be considered to have gone into survival mode to protect themselves and their loved ones. Therefore, these letters to the president proposing various and often contradicting measures for lockdown procedures can be seen as people advocating for decisions that they believe are going to help them survive.

Unfortunately, in survival mode when an individual does not agree with another individual’s mode of survival, we land up pointing a finger at one another. At face value, the government rules and regulations are meant to keep us safe, and are fairly straightforward. But, as has been proven in the last five weeks, they seem to be more open to interpretation than initially intended.

The #ImStaying Facebook group ran a poll on May 5, asking whether its members still supported the lockdown. Administrator Jarette Petzer revealed that of the 15 500 group members that participated in the poll, 13% were not in support whereas 22% were. Petzer wrote that “65%, however, while in support of the lockdown are not in support of the rules which really speaks to the heart of the frustration we are feeling as a country”.

It is time to stop pointing the finger at what everyone else is doing during the lockdown that is not to your personal satisfaction. Worrying yourself over the actions of other people without critically assessing your own actions is just selfish at this point. Everyone should act in the best interest of their loved ones, as long as it is in accordance with the government’s lockdown rules and regulations

Yes, the actions of those around us do impact the country as a whole. And yes, there are people breaking the rules, but you can report them to the authorities via the South African Police Services call centre on 10111. The president can only do so much; the South African people can only do so much; and you can only do so much.

Let us start minding our own business by looking after those we can with our carefully considered, survival mode actions. These individual actions, put together with everyone else’s individual actions, can aid the entire country.

FEATURED IMAGE: Emma O’Connor is a student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela