Founder and President Emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party
At this time of year, when we remember the birth of Christ, we imagine a peaceful scene in a stable in Bethlehem. We think of the bright star, the wise men and the worshipping shepherds; of a serene Mary and of Joseph bursting with pride.
What we do not imagine is the world into which Christ was born.
It was a world steeped in political turmoil, religious unrest and social upheaval. It was a time of violence and warring factions, of conflict, mob justice, violent protest, murder and corruption. Extremists and agitators provoked the burning of buildings, and a full-blown revolution was feared.
Into that darkness, Christ brought light.
This is well worth remembering as we approach Christmas in 2020. Many of us feel that the world has never been darker. Within our own communities we are struggling with the demons of violence, abuse and poverty. This extraordinary year has taken lives, incomes and jobs. It has robbed us of shared celebrations and forced us to put our lives on hold. Even funerals could not be held, where we could mourn our losses together.
Into this darkness, Christ still brings light.
I have seen this again and again throughout this year. There has been a wonderful outpouring of ubuntu botho as we reached out to one another, even from a distance. We have learned new ways of doing things and many have discovered that less is more. Having certain activities taken away from us, we have found more time to spend with family, and even time to be with ourselves, to simply take stock of our own wellbeing.
While our country has been thrown into crisis, the darkness has not overwhelmed us.
We need to cling to this knowledge as we continue to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Our fight is far from over and we are deep in a second wave. In some instances, this second wave has overtaken the severity of the first, which saw our country in a hard lockdown. One of the most frightening developments is the new strain of the virus, which is taking down the young and the healthy in large numbers.
Up to this point, many young people have had the attitude that they might as well get the virus and get it over with. It probably won’t be severe and is unlikely to demand more than a few days’ rest. But this is simply no longer true. We are seeing twenty-year-olds with no comorbidities contract the virus and die. We are also seeing young people struggle for months with long-term symptoms of having been infected.
As someone who contracted Covid-19 and survived, I am all the more aware of the reality of this pandemic. Having seen my son and one of my daughters battle infection, as well as my daughter-in-law, two of my grandchildren and many of my colleagues, I know it is prolific. Having expressed condolences to many friends, and to His Majesty the King, I know the danger of this pandemic.
This is why my message for Christmas 2020 is unusual. This Christmas, I urge us to take seriously the threat to our lives and to do Christmas differently. I ask that we all maintain protective measures, regardless of how many people we come into contact with. Even if we are celebrating just with our own family, if we do not all live in the same house we need to keep our masks on.
It is undoubtedly better to be safe than sorry. The worst gift we could give our loved ones this Christmas is Covid-19.
I particularly want to impress on young people to take great care to social distance, wear face masks and sanitise often. Your lives are at great risk in this second wave.
This Christmas, my own family is breaking a tradition we have maintained for some forty years. Every year, on Christmas Day, we celebrate with a lunch hosted at the Garden Court Ulundi, where family, friends and colleagues join us. This year however we simply cannot risk anyone’s life by gathering socially.
We will, therefore, be having Christmas as the immediate family, at home. While I am sad not to share this celebration with the people I walk with day in and day out in the service of our nation, I must admit to an unspoken sense of excitement, for I have seldom had my children and grandchildren all to myself. We have not had Christmas together, just the few of us, for many years.
I recognise that I have much to be grateful for as we approach Christmas. I pray that you too will find the blessings in this extraordinary time. May you experience the light in the darkness. I wish us all a safe Christmas.