8 December 2023

Constitutional lawyer Saber Jazbhay of Durban has recorded his thoughts in a logbook since day one of lockdown. Here are his latest musings shared with Al Qalam.

I’ve managed to dodge the virus thus far. It’s a big deal for me aged 67 – and working in an environment where the air and every surface is compromised.

Virologists are ad idem that people over 60-years-old are at a greater risk of catching the virus and dying. Though I had a choice to stay at home, like I did during the dark era of hit squads, I chose with precautions against getting infected through negligence to do what I do best – to ensure social justice is achieved.

So just as I did throughout these 118 days, I woke up on this cold fajr – and toparaphrase Khalil Gibran’s words – “with a winged heart” to offer my gratitude to Allah ‘for another day of loving’.

After performing my obligatory salah, I reflected on last Sunday night’s alarming stats. It showed that in a 24 hour period, 13497 more people got infected with 111 deaths recorded.

In fact every day since then the infection rate was around 11 000 – yes, daily!

Over breakfast, with a feeble sun wearily climbing the skies, and competing with the boisterous clamour of my close to three-year-old granddaughter, Safiyyah, I thought of the previous night’s discussion on radio that 2020 will surely go down as the worst year in South African history. Projections show that by end of July 2020, we could see over 400,000 infections since the pandemic paid us a visit – and that SA could become a ‘charnel house’.

Over a cup of tea, despite little Safiyyah’s unrelenting chatter, I reflected on another time in history – of 1981 which to me was the worst year in our history. It culminated with the murder of activist lawyer Griffiths Mxenge on 19 November 1981 by apartheid death squads.

Earlier that year the whites-only electorate had returned PW Botha to power with a landslide mandate to ‘eliminate the brutes’ that opposed apartheid. And true to that mandate, over 16707 people were convicted, banned and detained. And many more disappeared. It was the brutal pogrom that PW Botha would announce as ‘kragdadigheid’.

For activists to survive that year, it required a kind of determination and guile reminiscent of 2020. Those were the best of times in conflict with the worst of times in this century in 2020.

Government, I must confess, is doing the very best it can in fighting a goliath that is invisible, but is very real. Yes, it has made mistakes such as lifting the ban on the sale of alcohol but when it realised this, the ban was reintroduced.

We are on the cusp of a more deadly strike by this goliath. But remembering the Quranic lesson, it was faith coupled with steadfastness that brought down goliath.

We in SA have to rediscover THAT faith with courage. In a few days time we celebrate ‘Eid-ul Adha’ under circumstances that require us not to congregate in numbers larger than 50 and observing ‘social distancing’.

We mustn’t forget that just as Ebrahim (AS) recognised that Allah put His faith in him being steadfast and uncompromising in following Allah’s commandment – which was a test actually and a bet with Iblis – that Ebrahim (AS) wouldn’t waiver.

I believe this Coronavirus pandemic has the capacity to bring the best out of us……and the worst.

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