Easing of lockdown must be done carefully to save lives

by Bishop Jo Seoka

The Covid-19 lockdown has taught some of us that people would rather choose money over life.

The easing of the lockdown, particularly in industries such as mining, has confirmed what Paul Getty, an American financier once said: “The meek shall inherit the earth, but not its mineral resources.”

It is true that miners or any other blue-collar workers toil so hard but die poor, while those who own the means of production accumulate money by any means opportunity avails.

There is sufficient evidence that since the mines were given the privilege to reopen their plants and call miners back to work, there has been an increase in deaths resulting from Covid-19.

For instance, Marula, an Impala Platinum mine in Limpopo, temporarily closed as a result of 19 of its workers testing positive. And in the North West, Sibanye Stillwater confirmed in its report that among those tested, 51 miners were found to be positive for Covid-19.

AngloGold Ashanti confirmed 164 cases that led to the suspension of operations at Mponeng, which is one of the largest gold mines in the country. These figures exclude small mines and, of course, the zama-zama operations.

All these deaths occur despite the reports that stringent and comprehensive screening, testing, tracing and protective measures and protocols such as frequent hand-washing, sanitising and social distancing have been put in place.

My reading of the developments found that there is very little said about quarantine rather than isolation once miners have tested positive. One would have thought that returning miners or any other worker, for that matter, would be quarantined before starting to work with others.

So, the mine precincts seem to be slowly becoming the epicentres of Covid-19, which must be closely watched for the sake of saving lives. Money will always be there, but life is lived once. This is also true of the reopening of schools and churches. It is a big mistake that will be regrettable for some time.

These should be carefully thought out and executed wisely, otherwise our youth will be sacrificed for no reason, but expediency of being politically correct.

There should be no rush in pushing for the reopening of both the schools and churches until every measure is in place to prevent and/or minimise infections.

Even though it is not shown that schools enhance the spreading of Covid-19, there is concrete evidence that churches are most risky catchment areas for coronavirus.

Reports in America, Europe, Asia and here in Africa inform us that those who have not closed their churches have died with their pastors.

It is ironic that soon after the report that the South African Council of Churches had appealed to the government for financial support, the president expeditiously responded by giving permission for churches to open their doors for services under level 3.

Then greed showed its ugly face with clergy, prophets and archbishops advertising “transformational services, anointed sanitiser for R800, holy masks for R300 and quarantine blankets for R100”.

Is this out of desire to worship God or for want of money?

Some lessons ought to have been learnt from mining communities to avoid further spreading of the virus among scholars and congregants.

In all this preparatory work, decisive leadership and simple and straightforward messaging will limit conflicting and confusing messages that are pronounced by various ministers. The easing of lockdown levels must be cautiously implemented to save lives instead of chasing after money.

First published 4 June 2020 here