Dear Mr President,

 

Words fail me as I sit here mid-lockdown to write this letter. It will not be eloquent. But I would like to think that it expresses what many South Africans think of you.

 

A month ago, our world as we knew it was turned on its head. What started out as a worry for some and a form of flu to others soon became a giant lurking in the shadows of the unknown for all. The day I heard the news of the first case in South Africa, I was a stone’s throw away from the school affected. It hit home as news started to blare through the chime of Whatsapp messages for hours on end. We all tried to fob it off and put it to rest but, mere days later, it reared its ugly head again. Within a matter of weeks, life ceased to exist as we knew it and many of us are not sure if life will ever be the way it once was.

 

Fear gripped South Africans because we all know that a virus like this would wreak havoc in a third world country rife with AIDS, TB, overcrowded living spaces, poverty and an already ill-equipped and buckling healthcare system.

 

Many white South Africans especially, are disenchanted with the ANC and distrustful and cynical of its leadership. With an impending address from you, many quipped how “typical” it was when you left us sitting down in front of a blank screen, waiting. There were possibly some who expected a “no show”. Many thought that the governmental decisions would not be thorough or wise. And should by some chance they were, we did not expect follow-through. We expected scornful laughter of citizens and rules to be ignored and not heeded.

 

But when you came on, I was gradually enraptured. Your words were carefully thought through and explained with clarity and decisiveness. I was nervous that you would vaguely refer to some thumb-sucked suggestions. I thought you would make a string of promises yet be tardy in dealing with the inevitable disaster. But, I did not feel threatened or pleaded to heed rules. Rather, I felt a sense of calm as your resolve to do your utmost came through strongly in your gentle yet firm approach in dealing with the pandemic. I did not sit watching you with cynicism and disdain. I did not sit watching you despairing as you spoke – I hung onto every word and found myself nodding. Initially, I was sceptical of the Solidarity Fund but when I realised that it wasn’t some random kitty that would be dished out with bribery and corruption but rather a fund whose figures would be freely available to the general public, my respect rose. As you ended your address, my pride soared. You were our leader. And on this day, I was a darn proud South Africa.

 

“By justice a king gives a country stability,
    but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.”

Proverbs 29:4

 

Government has never made me proud. We have had leaders in the past who have been greedy and selfish. That’s been the part of our country that I’ve been ashamed of. But your leadership has given this nation stability. As you ended with, “I thank you,” my heart applauded you and so did my hands!

 

When you addressed us a second time, I was found myself looking forward to your address. Why? Because I was proud of you! I had every confidence that your wisdom would prevail, and prevail it did! I was dreading that you might tell us lockdown would be lifted. But you did not. You relieved my fears and continued the lockdown. The salary cut that you along with premiers are taking spoke volumes to me. It’s easy to throw rules around when you’re not on the ground and living with virtually nothing. But when you make a sacrifice (it’s all relative), you have cut a lot from your regular income. Sure, people may throw it back at you that you have a lot of money nonetheless. But truthfully, we all have a standard of living based on our income level. And regardless, when our salary drops, we all have to sacrifice something we are used to having. I wonder how the rest of the population’s ideas would change if they also gave a third of their salary?

And then, you mentioned the message of Easter is one of hope. You could have left that out.

But you didn’t.

I’m hoping that this is a time when people will realise that no amount of money, power or even lockdown laws can stop the inevitable! Knowing Christ is our only hope. This is proof that everything else has and will fail us.

 

A few days later, you denied the plea to lift the alcohol ban. I was impressed! Sure, people are looting shops and making their own booze. But I know a doctor in the ED in a government hospital. She commented on how quiet the ED has been without alcohol-related injuries such as stabbings, gunshot wounds, etc. Well done for denying the sale of alcohol knowing you’d be unpopular in doing so! That takes courage!

 

As for the economic decisions, I can’t pretend I understand much, but I pray that what you have set in place would be done and that corruption on lower levels would not exploit the poor. I admire how you are doing everything in your means to provide for the poor and destitute in the country! You have not made decisions lightly. And you are using the resources we have to give as much as you possibly can to the needy.

 

As this past Thursday approached, I was scared. Scared as we faced an impending lift of the security of lockdown. I knew the lift would be gradual, but I was nonetheless scared of what you would say and advise. Again, you did not disappoint. Face masks were now a must (something that the Western world has not seemed to enforce). Implementing the stages by province, was sheer genius. Although this will require more work, it will pay off more than sweeping legislation for the nation.

 

Then…

You encouraged us. You did not make it wordy, vague and cushy. You acknowledged the frustration and despair that your people were feeling. You spoke honestly to our hearts, recognising how hard it was to stay at home, how much we all wanted normality and to see other humans again. You sympathised with us. And you reminded us how far we had come and encouraged us to keep our spirits up.

You knew we needed to hear all that. From you!

 

I would like to take a moment to encourage you! I want you to know that no one in this country wants to be in your shoes because we recognise that the load you bear is heavy and hard. You will, as everyone does, make mistakes and face merciless criticism. I want you to know that we can’t imagine your exhaustion, your pain and your despair. I want you to know that we can’t imagine your mental and emotional burden as you make decisions that affect millions.

I also want you to know that several times when you have been speaking, I’ve been moved to tears. God, in His mercy, has given us you for our leader! Our nation, our South Africa, would have drowned under the leadership of the unwise in such a time as this. There is a verse I’m reminded of and feel as though we’ve been on the other extreme before.

“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
    when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

Proverbs 29:2

Today, our nation rejoices because you are in power. I have seen people praise you everywhere I look! Your nation loves you because you have shown integrity, wisdom and concern! No matter the skin colour; no matter which political party people support, that has all become immaterial in their support of you!

So Mr President, know that we admire you! We support you! We’ve got your back! Your nation is behind you! You are prayed for and you are loved!

 

Photo Credit: Eyewitness News

Check out their link for a great video of the president jokingly putting his scarf over his face after the mask mess up 🙂

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