What has always been our way of life has been disrupted by the emergency of the Corona Virus Disease, COVID-19. Batswana are generally a people who are very compassionate to others. This is demonstrated in the manner we greet others, the way we participate in functions such as weddings and funerals, our religious functions and many others where we share common happiness or sorrows. It is common knowledge that we are a people that shake hands whenever we greet each other. By shaking hands, we will be actually demonstrating the oneness that exists within our people. Normally, the shaking of hands is coupled with a smiling face to symbolise openness and warmness.
Funeral functions are one area that Batswana reveal their utmost compassion to the family that is bereaved. The norm is that we gather for prayers (Merapelo) for almost a week at the affected family home. This is viewed as a way of offering support during the most difficult times. Apart from the comfort that we get from sharing the word of God, we share food and stories during the funerals. Batswana support one another during weddings too. Family members and friends usually contribute in various ways towards the celebrations. That is why we refer to a wedding as an institution between two families not just two people. In all these cases, Batswana gather in one place as a sign of unity.
Suddenly we have a blight called the Coronavirus. A healthy ailment that attacks the respiratory system of a human being. Body fluids are the main means of transmission. Touching a surface that has some Corona infested fluid will likely get you some infection. So goes with kissing or hugging a Covid-19 patient. I also suspect that the saliva (even in minute content) that drops onto someone that you are physically talking to, might lead to an infection if that person has a Coronavirus. These modes of transmissions basically contravene our daily operations as a people. Is it possible to exist without touching surfaces? Can anybody talk without opening their mouths? Does it mean we should temporarily halt expressing passion for our loved ones? All these things are just impossible to do. It is against human nature. Yet today, Coronavirus dictates that we adjust our lives to almost impossible conditions.
Medical experts are advising that we continuously cleanse our hands as a measure of reducing the risk of getting infected. We are advised to avoid greeting others in a normal way of shaking hands, rather we should adopt the kind of greeting gestures done in other countries such as bowing or waving of hands. If we are to go by our traditional customs and norms, these kind of greeting gestures are a way of shunning (go bifela) your neighbour. We are advised to avoid gatherings for fear of contracting this deadly disease. Thus our usual functions such as weddings and funerals are gravely affected. It is against our normal culture to have less than ten people burying the deceased. We are further asked to self-quarantine, meaning that the less we move around meeting many people out there, the high chances we have of not contracting the virus. This is not trending well with our ‘Tswana’ socialising tendencies. We are a people who enjoy gatherings and chatting. Can you imagine that we now have to think about this virus whenever you attempt to hug and kiss your lover? We are in a state of disarray.
We are yet to understand why this disease is infringing upon our rich culture. Be as it may, I have faith and hope that just as we have conquered many other threatening conditions before, Batswana will conquer this one once again. If we religiously adhere to the precautionary measures as instructed by our heroic medical professionals, we are bound to come out as victors. Covid-19 should not and will not trample on our way of life and happiness for long. As a community whose pillar is bounded by great compassion for others, we should pray that this condition passes as quickly as possible so that we can go back to our normal ways of sharing with our neighbours. Let us continuously seek for divine intervention from our Lord Jesus Christ to have his way on this matter.