By Fred Khumalo
At a time when most South Africans are reeling from several challenges as a result of the failing economy, Covid-19, load shedding and other things that might visit physical and psychological trauma on their persons, it is comforting to find something to smile about.
In my case, it is the freedom to once again go out to restaurants, the theatre and art galleries freely – and all of this with a measure of comfort and confidence that one is safe.
After the country’s mandate to wear a mask in public was dropped, many of us celebrated. As fate would have it, on that very day, I got to go out and watch my grandson perform at the Joburg Theatre alongside fellow members of the Drakensberg Boys Choir.
The theatre was packed to the rafters. The majority of the people did not have their masks on, although I decided to put mine on once we were inside the building.
The great Zwai Bala, of TKZee fame is an old boy of that school. As a result, he and a number of former old boys were invited to join the current boys on stage for a song or two. The old boys took to it the way the EFF joins a parliamentary session – with energy and alacrity.
During the intermission, I interacted with long-lost friends and former colleagues, many of whom admitted that they had been so scared to go out to public spaces for the past two years, even after the relaxation of the Covid-19 regulations.
The removal of the masks, they said, gave them further confidence to take the first tentative steps into big public spaces.
There are people I met for the first time during the pandemic and who I suspect will not be easy to recognise without their masks on. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will find himself in this mildly embarrassing situation.
Thanks to Covid, there are kids who started university two years ago but who have never fully experienced campus life – no political rallies, no parties, no physical classes. My youngest son, who started his studies at Wits University this year, doesn’t know many of his teachers as most of the classes are still largely virtual.
It is only when you sit down and think about it that you realise just how this despot of a disease has changed our lives.
Thanks to Covid-19, there are people who will never again be comfortable shaking others’ hands. Thankfully, I’ve never been a great fan of hugging – so now I won’t come across as being rude when I choose not to hug a person I’ve just encountered.
Even as we celebrate, let us still take precautions, as the scourge might just come back to haunt us.
—Fred Khumalo is the deputy news editor of City Press