2020: A year to remember

And while it is understandable that many people would rather forget the hardship and anguish that 2020 brought for many, the events of the past 12 months will demand to be remembered.

As individuals and societies, we have all experienced and learnt so much this year, but one of the realisations that stand out for me, and that give me hope for the future, is the swift and profound way in which we adapted to circumstances that were new and daunting to us.

Even if we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, next year will not be any easier for South Africans than this one.

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The country’s money troubles will manifest in greater failures by the state. We will still have millions of unemployed, food-insecure and poor people, with little left in state coffers to support them.

If we are to have any hope of turning things around before the country’s debt situation plunges us into failed state territory, some painful changes will have to be made. But I think this is possible.

The way in which South Africans, albeit grudgingly, accepted and complied with one of the longest and harshest lockdowns in the world, at great personal cost, and without even being able to buy something nice to drink, makes me think we still feel a greater sense of shared responsibility and camaraderie, as citizens of this country, than we might realise.

If we were able, almost overnight, to completely change the way we live, then I have to believe that we are still able to set aside our differences, jealousy and greed, and to look beyond our immediate wants, so that we can fix what needs to be fixed in order to build something better, fairer and safer.

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But we need stronger and more honest leaders. We need to bring integrity back. Our political leaders should take a step back and look at what South Africans are doing for themselves and be humbled by what they see.

A few weeks back, when more than 100 000ha of land were ravaged by fires in the Free State and North West, people from across South Africa responded with such an outpouring of goodwill that farmers and communities affected by these fires had to ask people to stop sending donations; there was just too much.

When we start looking, we can see examples all around us of how South Africans are working to find solutions that will make our country better.

SA Harvest, for instance, started out small in 2019, with a single truck and only three employees, but with a bold purpose to do something about the millions of tons of food that are going to waste while so many people go hungry.

Now, just a year later, they run an end-to-end food rescue solution that provides up to 200 000 meals per month to some of those who need it most (and their work expanded even more since the lockdown!)

I refuse to believe that a country with so much heart is doomed to fail because its government does not have its head on straight.