These are the right noises about Covid in our midst — keep it up!

Thursday March 04 2021
Border check.

A worker checks the temperature of travellers at the Kenyan-Tanzanian in Namanga on March 16, 2020. PHOTO | FILBERT RWEYEMAMU | AFP


Our government officials are at last emerging from the thick mist of denial and daring to call the thing by its name. At last we hear official voices stating loud and clear that, yes, we have Covid-19 in our midst and it is killing our loved ones.

Still, what seems to have triggered this change of heart is the deaths of so many high-profile Tanzanians because of ‘breathing problems’.

It has been a good part of 12 months of grappling with whether or not to accept what we are seeing before our very eyes but which some people want us to say is not there.

Between that denialism and the newfound courage to say what we should have admitted many months ago, a lot of water has gone under the bridge and many things will have to be corrected if we decide to try and march in tandem with the rest of the world, or at least with our brothers and sisters in the neighbourhood.

When coronavirus surprised us at the beginning of last year, we were smart enough, led by the authorities, to admit that this was a new affliction about which we knew precious little but about which we needed to tread very gingerly. We followed the lead of the world’s and our experts, and together we took measures to protect ourselves, those dear to us and fellow human beings generally.

Seriously, we, together with the rest of the world, had been thrust onto a learning curve and were required to be good students, closely following what the more erudite students amongst us were suggesting we do or don’t do.


We have not exited that learning curve yet, as evidenced by new revelations emerging as to how the vile virus might behave with us in our different circumstances.

We were initially rocked, understandably, as we were dealing with so many known unknowns, but at least we banded together and practised solidarity and empathy.

But soon we started behaving like that band of English boys I described in one of my contributions on this page. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is instructive in understanding what happens when order breaks down and each one of us does what they figure is best for themselves, or for us all.

We have gone through a period in which all manner of solutions were bandied around, but one thing remained constant, and that was that what the people in authority said could not be challenged, even in circumstances where what was said by these people seriously did not make sense.

To make this even worse, the awe-inspiring name of the Almighty was dragged into the argument at a time when it was unnecessary to do so. 

I do not how we got to a point when even the recognised messengers of the faiths we swear by are shunted to the sides by temporal powers who claim to have more access to the heavenly King than His own envoys.

In matters confessional, I must declare my wanting, but even I was left dumbfounded by this preposterousness. My little reading of such holy books as I have had the fortune to consult suggests this is not the way to define our relations with our responsible clergy.

I’m talking here about the clergy that dare to tell their flocks in no uncertain terms that Covid-19 kills, it has killed and will continue killing unless we take the precautions prescribed by the health experts.

They are not telling us that all we need to do is pray and fast. I salute these men and women of the cloth who appear to know what their work is.

On the other extreme, some charlatans who have wedded themselves to our political system have spread the lie of divine intervention so forcefully, which does not surprise me, since they are the same ones who have often told the lie that they can resuscitate dead people!

It is a good thing that the currency of all these charlatans is losing its value as our people see people dying and there is no reversing that status.

We need to spread the word that these characters are harming us and should be rejected outright.

We should also reject any voice that tells us that there is something wrong with people wearing face masks. We need to know that face masks have been in use long before coronavirus.

The first time I travelled to Asian countries in my 20s — you can be sure that was donkey’s years ago — many people on the streets had masks, to protect themselves from foul air around them.

Around the same time, I found Californians wearing masks because there was something called ‘smog’ in their commonwealth, and there was no Covid-19 then. You people, what is your problem, just not knowing, or wanting to not know?

There is something about which I agree with President John Magufuli completely, for now. He has done well to push back on suggestions to place Tanzania under a lockdown. The economic fallout may have been more negative than what we have suffered so far.

But the messaging around Covid-19 needs to be more consistent, especially the masks, social distancing, sanitisers and avoidance of crowds. For now.

Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]