In times of adversity, when it looks and feels like everything is going to the dogs, always look for those bright spots which tell you that not everything is lost, and that there is hope yet.
In the times of Covid-19 such moments have been with us, if only we cared to look and recognise them. This week I want to pay homage to some of our fellow citizens who have shown resilience, fortitude and courage in the face of a most frightening disease, and who have shown the rest of us that survival and victory are possible, even in the darkest and most confusing times.
About a year ago today, when the first cases of the strange virus hit our shores, we were taken by utter surprise when guys suddenly started dropping dead after a short illness. What became even more confusing were the stories about this virus straight ‘out of China’ which was killing Europeans and Americans by the dozen, and our authorities looked clueless as to what it was all about.
On television we were shown old and frail, coughing and gasping septuagenarians who were being refused hospital beds because they were not sick enough and ‘real’ sick people needed those beds The bombshell fell close home in my circles when a bouncy and popular Dar es Salaam hunk, who looked to be in good health, was pronounced dead after a short illness.
We all received the wake-up call, sat up and behaved ourselves. Sanitisers and face masks suddenly sprung up, and shoppers and other visitors in public spaces followed the rules as stipulated by the authorities.
It was not to last long, for the authorities decided we were to confront Covid-19 with the power of prayer, and the faithful thronged the churches to do battle with the virus, something I as a poor, non-scientific soul, found most bizarre.
Soon, the authorities, who had forbidden anyone giving Corona updates but themselves, went silent and there was nobody telling us anything about the disease except the robust Dar es Salaam grapevine.
Because people were not dying in great numbers after April last year, even the grapevine relaxed, somewhat, except for the sporadic deaths reported by close family members or acquaintances.
How it came to be that reporting a suspected Covid-19 death was anti-government propaganda I will never know, but that is what it looked like. President John Pombe Magufuli himself showed a great dislike for the face mask which I could not comprehend at all at all as they say.
By January it was becoming clear Covid-19 had come back with a vengeance, and our people were being plucked like plums from an unguarded orchard. Most disconcertingly, although a lot of them were public figures, who could not die unrecognised, still the C-word was not allowed in our conversations. Eventually, sadly, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania himself, succumbed to a heart condition that cannot be ruled out as Corona-related.
Sometime last year, as we in Tanzania pooh-poohed the virus and turned to the shamanism for which we are renowned, I noted someone on a Kenyan television talk show saying that Tanzania would soon ‘shed precious tears’.
It has happened. Even if Magufuli is not a coronavirus victim, too many of his people have evidently been victims of the virus. Some of them said so openly before they checked out.
What I have this week is a cris de coeur intended for the authorities in my country: You could not have created the virus, even if you had wanted to. So no one is accusing you of anything. Enough people have died because of this thing. It is clear God is not wasting time on irresponsible, absent-minded believers who have forgotten that He said a long time ago that He helps only those who help themselves.
So this week it is my chapeau to all those who have decided to help themselves! My congratulations to all the shopkeepers and other service providers who keep sanitisers at the entrance and those — many fewer — who demand that clients wear face masks. It is becoming difficult for many people to stay the course, for even wearing a face mask could get you disapproving glances, or even kid chants of ‘Corona! Corona! with index fingers in your direction!
But probably the biggest thumbs-up should go to those brave souls who know their loved ones were mowed down by Covid-19, though the authorities have kept mum.
So just as the businesses which have imposed restrictions on their clients, these families have gone ahead and asked well-wishers not to come, to stay away for their own sake, maybe make cash contributions, but please stay away, because we know our beloved brother or sister died of Corona, and overcrowding can be a superspreader.
In recognition of which I raise my goblet to departed pioneering journalist Jimmy Semaganga Mdoe, who joined the ancestors a few weeks ago, and to his loving wife, Jane Tibenda, who asked people to stay away, because she knew her husband had died of Covid-19.
Many Tanzanian families are taking this as one way to help themselves, as God ordained.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]