With SA’s COVID-19 infection rate rising sharply, it’s now more important than ever for everyone to take preventative measures to curb the spread. Our political and business leaders need to set an example.
This is why it was distressing to see the images outside the home of struggle icon Andrew Mlangeni on Tuesday after he passed away last week, aged 95. ANC leaders standing around the coffin were masked but standing close together. Images of a senior SANDF member smoking is also concerning.
BLSA fully supports the statement by Business for SA (B4SA) released calling on business and all South Africans to continue to take preventative action against spreading COVID-19.
“In addressing the challenge, every part of society must work together to ensure South Africans are able to work in the safest possible manner – whether that be as part of the state, business, NGO or individuals – and working practices must adapt to meet the health, safety, and hygiene protocols required to combat COVID-19,” B4SA said. “This includes employer obligations in respect of employees over the age of 60 or those with specified co-morbidities.”
BLSA and other business organisations – and indeed, government itself – have worked hard to promote the importance of social distancing in curbing the infection rate and in implementing preventative measures in workplaces. But when the country’s leaders flout social distancing at such a public event, it undermines much of that work.
Leadership sets the example for others to follow. This situation makes further attempts to reinforce social distancing nonsensical when those announcing the rules are seen flouting them. How will President Cyril Ramaphosa or Health Minister Zweli Mkhize not appear hypocritical the next time they attempt to reinforce the importance of social distancing in public?
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says there was a spontaneous gathering outside Mlangeni’s home and the crowd was quickly pushed back. But that does not explain why the ANC leaders themselves were standing shoulder to shoulder.
Thankfully, at the formal funeral ceremony, social distancing was observed. With just a little bit of better planning, it could have also been done outside Mlangeni’s home. That occasion could have been used to set an example to the country of how to do the right thing. Sadly, they have now set the example that the rules are there to be flouted.
This article was first published in SABC News website.