Trying to find a little optimism is a sea of despair

This week has been one of the darkest in South Africa’s young democracy. The scenes of looting, destruction and violence are heart-wrenching. The complete disregard for other people’s property, belongings and livelihoods is unbearable to watch.

High levels of youth unemployment, hunger, growing inequality and the lack of opportunities have been a ticking time-bomb. Exacerbated by Covid, the constant thought of illness and death, as well as several lockdowns, some of this was expected.

What wasn’t expected was the extent of it or its vehemence and its longevity. Several days later, the situation continues to escalate.

While it is difficult to watch, we must watch, because if we don’t, we can’t understand it, and if we don’t understand it, we can’t do anything about it. We cannot continue to ignore poverty, hunger and unemployment and expect things to continue unchanged. Things always change. We must face reality.

The reality is that while the full impact will be across the board, it will impact the poor the hardest. The reality is that people lost their businesses, particularly small business owners that are not adequately insured, and this will have a dire knock-on effect. These businesses will have to let their employees go, further impacting livelihoods and increasing unemployment. The reality is that rebuilding will take long and it will be difficult, but we must. We must support small businesses where possible. They are the backbone of our society.

My hope is that we look at what’s happening, not with a lens of fear and uncertainty but with a lens of clarity. My hope is that we come out of this a stronger and more resilient nation, one that takes care of all its people, one of inclusive growth and prosperity.

Please, stay safe.

Nkosi sikelel’ Afrika

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