Thank Teacher Covid, we know what is useful but not essential

Saturday April 18 2020

Everyone is now learning to distinguish between what is essential, what is useful and what is a luxury. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA | NMG


By the time Covid-19 settles, and even before it does, many attitudes, perceptions and beliefs will have changed drastically.

Take the spiritual concept of miracles. In Uganda, the miracle most young people prayed for has been to get a visa to Europe or America.

Atheist intellectuals have long offered scientific explanations for the miracles attributed to Jesus Christ, and now we believers may have to look to them to interpret recent ‘miracles’. For example, on Jesus feeding 5,000 people not counting women and children on a couple of fish and loaves with 12 baskets of leftovers being collected, the non-believers have a convincing explanation.

They say the Hebrews those days had a habit of packing their food when going to prayer crusades so when the charismatic Jesus ordered them to start eating, everyone just opened their ‘lunch boxes’ and started eating and sharing around.

When President Yoweri Museveni announced a two-week lockdown, many feared that some two million vulnerable Kampalans who live hand to mouth would face starvation because the day they don’t work they can’t eat. Now men die after seven days of not eating and women taking a little longer, succumbing at nine days.

So save for a small percentage who got relief food, two million Kampalans should have died on Easter Sunday. They didn’t. So did Museveni perform a miracle by making people live for 14 days without eating, and they emerged well-fed from the starvation?


Personally with my limited means, a day before Easter I used mobile money to send a mere equivalent of $5 each to about ten people I knew to be needy. This enabled each to afford a kilo of meat and rice plus some seasoning. Can I claim to have performed ten miracles in ten households with $50?

Everyone is now learning to distinguish between what is essential, what is useful and what is a luxury.

At the start of the lockdown, people were risking arrest to go out for beer. Soon they realised the beer wasn’t essential after all. Then gyms were shut down and people took to the roads to jog. This was also banned and President Museveni released a video of himself doing cardio and power exercises in his office. Outdoor jogging also ended.

When the lockdown started, many people righteously screamed about their need to continue working because they employ others, pay taxes and so on.

Tourism operators were the first to yell about the millions of shillings they were losing. Shillings when other countries were already losing thousands of lives to Covid-19! Like spoilt children, some Ugandans wanted rent payment suspended until the end of covid-19. Suppose rent had been suspended when HIV/Aids struck nearly 40 years ago, all tenants would die of old age without paying a penny again as the banks took landlords to jail for loans default!

Some blokes demanded that NSSF pay their retirement benefits if they were not going to work for a couple weeks! If the lockdown was to be two months, would they demand for a year’s salary advance?

Good mind

Then the Finance ministry did not disappoint. Out of the bag they pulled a figure of $190 million. For what? For borrowing of course. As carpenters who think every problem must be hit with a hammer, they wanted the World Bank/IMF to quickly lend them $190million to see the government through Covid-19.

An economist with a good mind would have used Covid-19 to look at debt with new lenses. At least President Museveni did, by appealing to rich Ugandans to donate so we start tackling the emergency using our resources instead of seeking bondage first.

Museveni bluntly said that those donating vehicles for boosting the Health services’ mobility must bring only brand new 4WDs. Within a week, a few dozen brand new 4WDs had been brought and more were still coming. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the ‘clever’ government economists are sent home after the Covid-19 crisis.

MPs also didn’t surprise us when they started talking of postponing the elections due next year. Imagine leaders preaching doom by indicating that Covid-19 was not about to go away.

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail:[email protected]