Thandizo Kawerama

When the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Namibia was announced, the government did an amazing job implementing measures to protect the health of Namibians. Social distancing quickly became a recurring theme, and many Namibians started to take preventative measures in case of a full blown outbreak. This was evident by the empty shelves in pharmacies and grocery stores all over the country.

In the midst of the growing public concern over COVID-19, President Geingob’s inauguration ceremony last month hosted over 400 guests at the State House, breaking the ‘no more than 50 people in a gathering’ rule which had been put in place the week prior. The ceremony also hosted foreign delegates, including the president of Botswana Mokgwetsi Masisi, who upon return to his home country was placed into quarantine. What was the point of setting preventative measures if they were just going to be ignored? Does COVID-19 only exist outside of the State House?

Others have mentioned this discrepancy, but I wanted to have my say.

Namibians have witnessed our neighbour, South Africa jump from 1 case to nearly 1,400 cases (AU figure from April 1st) within a short period of time. Many have taken to platforms such as Twitter to voice concern over the possibility of our country following in their footsteps, instead of learning from their unfortunate reality.

At the same time, there are Namibians who are ignoring the preventative measures put in place and are going about life as it was before. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the COVID-19 situation our country, and people are either panicking or flat out ignoring the situation to cope with the gravity of the times in which we are living.

Its times like these that we need our leaders to set the tone for how our country will face the situation. The partial lockdown is evidence of their commitment to facing the battle head on, but even during the lockdown questionable rules such as cuca shops and bars being able to stay open until 6 pm exist. Does Covid-19 respect our opening and closing time schedules?

The cuca shop rule coupled with the extensive list of attendees for our president’s inauguration ceremony only adds to the confusion as to whether or not Namibians take the situation seriously.

There’s no turning on the television and seeing anything unrelated to COVID-19. Everyday we’re consuming a constant stream of updates. It’s not a shock that people would start to feel a sense of panic in the face of a lockdown. Within a week people have gone from living regular lives to fighting over toilet paper in Metro. Consistency from our leaders would help tremendously in guiding how we should conduct ourselves during the lockdown.

Again, government is doing many things right and during a state of emergency we can criticize without being disruptive to the health messages that must be respected. Still, consistency in all that is happening must be priority. Government cannot send the army into Katutura to enforce rules unilaterally while pushing, shouting and arresting people, while allowing residents of Ludwigsdorf and Eros Park to roam the streets and style their own version of lockdown unquestioned. We must be consistent. Covid is not just a poor black man’s disease; rich whites can catch it and spread it too. Check out the 100,000 cases in the USA and the 700+ people who have died in Italy!

This is not to say that our government should encourage people to live in a state of constant panic, but rather demonstrate their ability to stay calm in the face of a crisis through their consistency.

People are confused, worried about what’s to come and uncertain about what to believe with all the information that is being circulated. We need our leaders to be consistent in the tone being used during this state of emergency, not only for the lockdown, but for the extra tough economic times that are to follow.