President Cyril Ramaphosa inspired some levels of hope when he announced the country’s first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines. This consignment consists of one million doses of produced by Serum Institute of India, which arrived in OR Tambo International Airport last week. 

The easing of lockdown level 3 restrictions were justified primarily by the arrival of this first consignment which will see all healthcare workers, essential workers, people over 60 years of age and people with co-morbidities taking their first jab of the vaccines. The easing of lockdown restrictions was necessary as pressure was mounting on the government as South African Brewery had laid off 550 temporary workers, as well as the huge divestment of more than R2 bn.

Covid-19 vaccine uptake

Although Covid-19 vaccines are not mandatory in Israel, the small country, which has the equal size of land as our Kruger National Park with about 9 million population, has experienced more Israelis taking part in what the media referred to as the world’s leading vaccination programme. 

Israel has vaccinated more than a million of its population with two doses. After receiving a single dose, a second dose has to be injected in about 3 weeks later. 

President Ramaphosa has assured South Africans in his recent national address that the vaccines would not be forced against the will of those who do not want to take part. South Africans should take lessons from Israel and its people by taking part in this important chapter to slow down the infection rate, mortalities and hospitalisation. 

Vaccine conspiracy theories

Propaganda, conspiracy theories and misinformation have been peddled by armchair critics who are not contributing a single solution to the quagmire faced by the world about this deadly and contagious coronavirus. These lies are meant to scare people from taking part in the vaccination programme, and further mislead the population into believing that the virus does not exist by linking it with 5G technology, which has got nothing to do with the novel coronavirus. 

South Africans are bolder than this cheap propaganda and they will rise above any pettiness. The government should do what they did in the 1990s when they ran two successful educational campaigns on democracy and HIV/AIDS. 

Previous Government public education campaigns

One of the most successful campaigns to ever be run by the South African government was Khululeka which featured the late, iconic Joe Mafela. The intention at the time was to teach people about new concepts such as democracy, rights, elections and others. The campaign was launched after the historic launch of the country’s constitution in 1996 which took place in Sharpeville, South of Johannesburg.

Who can forget Soul City which had the legendary Lillian Dube as its face? The Soul City project can be argued to be one of the most famous of South Africa’s success stories, as people started to change their behaviour towards their sexual lifestyles in a bid to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. From Soul City, people learnt much about HIV/AIDS, which was a deadly virus at the time because there were no anti-retroviral drugs available.

Like the government did in the 1990s with Khululeka and Soul City, why is our government, through the arts and culture ministry, not launching a massive campaign on coronavirus to teach people more about the disease and ways to combat it? The government is allowing misinformation to rule the street as people have nowhere to look for information. Arts and culture ministry should assemble the country’s artists and start a campaign which will work against what they call conspiracy theories. Social media is doing more harm than good as irresponsible people peddle lies. This campaign will also assist those artists who have not been getting gigs to make money in this difficult period.

South Africa needs massive campaigns

South Africa, like Israel, should place life at its highest value and be as creative and practical as possible in funding ways out of our budget and resources to invest in vaccines that will save lives and inject life back into our economy. We all have seen how this virus has hit the world’s economy and healthcare system too. 

I argue that the coronavirus has hit the world’s economy more than the 1930s Great Depression. We are yet to experience many years recovering and undoing the economic and health impact of this contagious coronavirus. 

Africans for Peace, an NGO, Chairman Klaas Mokgomole said that South Africa should take some lessons from Israel by investing in the youth, “South Africa can learn that investing in the country’s youth will benefit the country in a later stage. Investing in the education system will produce inventors who will come with solutions to situations like this. The educational curricula needs to be relevant, of higher quality, decolonized and up to date,” said Mokgomole.

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Kenneth Mokgatlhe

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a political and social commentator.

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