The South African government’s announcement of a national lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 caught many people by surprise. It came before payday for many people, meaning that people had to go out after the lockdown started. Nhlanhla Mdlalose writes about his experiences in the first week of the national lockdown and how deeply it has affected his spiritual and personal life.
Watching my community respond to the first few days of the lockdown declared by government to slow the infection rate of COVID-19 in South Africa, I feel that government was not ready for this period, but panicked due to the escalation of the virus.
People were also not well prepared for it. The lockdown happened just before many people were to get paid, so they didn’t have money and enough time to buy essentials for 21 days. I have also heard about people panic buying. In my community, however, what I see is that people have only just received their money and they are doing their monthly buying. They can’t stay at home when they don’t have anything to eat, so they must go to the shops. By doing this, they are defeating the lockdown rules and regulations. But there are also people who are ignorant and think that they do not run the risk of getting sick.
The suffering of not attending Mass
The lockdown has affected our religious life because we cannot go to Mass or participate in the spiritual activities of our community. Our parish also has not organised Masses on social media platforms or live streaming. In this regard, Radio Veritas has been a good resource that provides prayers and daily masses.
I’m afraid many young people are confused and frightened by the virus and might lose faith or start questioning why God would allow such a disease to hurt our people. I’m a youth mentor, so I try to stay in touch with some and we share verses and daily prayers, but it’s not enough. We need to do what other Christians are doing by engaging young people in their faith through live streaming, especially since most of our young people own smartphones and have access to the internet.
My social life has come to a stop
My social life has taken a big knock. I used to go to stadiums and watch soccer live almost every weekend. Now we have had to stop the matches and fan activities. I can’t even meet with my friends for a braai or anything. Instead, I have used this time to study and work on my assignments.
The social isolation also came at a time of personal grief. The day before the lockdown my brother passed away. I am feeling so devastated as I write this article. However, it has been a huge challenge to maintain social distancing and isolation when you have people coming in and out to offer their condolences. We know that we have the coronavirus to worry about, so we need to provide sanitizers and manage the number of people who are coming in. One problem is that shops don’t have sanitizers. It’s also difficult to tell people to wash their hands and keep their distance while mourning at the same time.
Now that the lockdown is here, public transport is a big problem for some family members to come here. For the few people who have cars, only two people are allowed to travel in each car. It was devastating for those who attended the funeral, but the prayers brought us together as a family and there were many people comforting us.
For the past few days, I have been listening to “So Will I”, a song by Hillsongs. This song is so relevant to the situation we find ourselves in right now. The song is about creation. Creation proclaims God’s glory and we are part of God’s creation. So are the stars, planets, mountains and the oceans. They all sing praises to God except for us human beings, and yet God created us to rule over and care for His creation. Instead, we defy God and do things our own way and we have turned the world upside down. When the very creation that God created for us to rule and look after turns against us, we begin questioning God’s existence.
Listening to this song helps me to understand and contextualise the situation we are facing. It fills me with awe, but also assures me that everything will be alright.