The Sunday Mail
HISTORY has a weird sense of humour and an uncanny ability to repeat itself.
It seems we are just a new cast in an old movie called life.
As with what happens with the casting of a movie, the plot is always colourful as it is made up of different characters — the heroes, villains, idiots, fools, looneys, mamparas and of course, the unassuming extras.
In 2020 and 2021, humanity seems to be reliving the horrific years of 1918 and 1919 when a similarly virulent and highly contagious virus — the Spanish Flu — roiled the world.
The coronavirus is just a sequel of the horror movie that was the Spanish Flu.
Just a small insignificant detail: Contrary to what the name suggests, the Spanish Flu didn’t actually originate in Spain, but it got the name from the European country because it was the only one which reported on it the most, since, as a neutral country during the First World War, it was not encumbered by the widespread censorship policies of its peers who wanted to stir the spirits of troops on the warfront.
By the time it had run its course, the influenza pandemic had infected half a billion people around the world and killed 50 million.
This time, God has been merciful on us.
It is not as grim as it was 102 years ago.
By last week, more than 90 million people had been infected and close to two million had been killed.
Sadly, more than 400 of our countrymen have perished. Although it is necessary to gauge the scale of the tragedy, Bishop Lazi doesn’t quite support wheeling out these statistics because they are bereft of any emotion.
They also dehumanise the fatalities.
Beyond those faceless statistics is a loved parent or friend who has left hard-to-heal broken hearts.
Beyond those nameless figures is a wailing and grieving family who could give anything for their loved ones to be brought back.
Everywhere you look, the calamity is apparent. It has hit closer to home and it is that tragic.
But it is eerily the same script.
America, whose fatalities continue to scale grim milestones and had risen to more than 370 000 last week, is reeling from Covid-19 in the same way it did in 1918-1919 when 675 000 Americans perished.
And the same way US outgoing President Donald Trump was infected by Covid-19 in 2020, was the same way American President Woodrow Wilson caught the Spanish Flu in Paris in 1919, during the First World War peace negotiations.
Also, just as United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson caught the coronavirus in March 2020, in September 1918, then-Prime Minister David Lloyd George also caught the Spanish Flu.
Thankfully, coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out, which will lead to a decisive fightback against the raging virus.
But we should have taken to heart the invaluable lesson that was learnt in 1919 that there would be a second wave of the virus, which would be both catastrophic and almost apocalyptic.
The first wave of the Spanish Flu was generally mild, as the sick experienced chills, fever and fatigue, while the second highly contagious wave was horrific, as those who were infected died within hours or days of developing symptoms.
The same phenomenon is now playing out and we are learning the hard way.
While the first wave of the coronavirus came with a slap on the wrist, the second wave has come with a sledgehammer, and we are being mercilessly grounded and pounded.
And as was the case a century ago, in the current sequel of this horror movie, there are still idiots — well, they are called Covidiots — looneys and mamparas who think that all this is a hoax or they are so superhuman that the coronavirus does not even stand a chance.
These are the mules that are spreading the virus. They wander about aimlessly either without a mask or strapping it on their chin.
The intra-suburb pirate taxis are still operating and they always relish the unending catch-and-mouse game they have with the police.
And then there are the rotten members of law enforcement agents who are ready to look the other way when their palms are greased by those who would have broken the law.
You see, in the old days, there also had their own fair share of idiots.
In Britain, there was this mampara that was called Sir Arthur Newsholme.
He was the chief medical officer of the local government board.
In August 1918, this chap suspended a lockdown that was meant to prevent the spread of the Spanish Flu simply because he feared this would dampen the war effort.
Not surprisingly, the second, most deadly, wave of the disease hit Britain in October of the same year and continued the following year.
Ecclesiastes 10:1-3 warns: “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honour. A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left. Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.”
Just as the whole world is currently scrambling to secure vaccines, it might be prudent in the interim to be sticklers of the non-pharmacological interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good hygiene and limitations on public gatherings that are being prescribed by our health experts.
Hebrews 13 verse 17 tells us: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
Argh!!! Some people always want to be unhelpfully burdensome.
They are a pain in all the wrong places.
You should see how they are trying by all means to politicise the virus.
Prisoners of success
Bishop Lazi believes that we have become the victims of our own success.
The measures that were taken last year to pre-empt the potential spread of the virus were so successful that most people thought the low case count meant either the virus was less virulent on black people or we were immune to it.
On March 4 — long before the country had reported its first case — President ED restricted foreign travel by civil servants outside Africa.
By then, only 3 000 people had succumbed to the disease worldwide.
Thirteen days later, the pandemic was declared a state of national disaster, while the ZITF and Independence celebrations were cancelled, among a host of other far-reaching and bold measures.
On March 30, the country went into full lockdown.
So effective were the measures that the country had only lost six lives to the disease by the end of June last year.
Only in July did the cases begin to rise, before eventually reaching a peak in August.
In the month of August alone, 135 people died, but even then the infections and cases were manageable.
This gave people a false sense of security that the disease was possibly not as fatal as initially thought. Between September and October, cases were so low that people began to relax and let their guard down, which was fatal, as a second wave was already brewing.
But the current lockdown will go a long way to blunt the spread of the disease and save precious lives.
But, for the Bishop, it is the post-Covid-19 epoch that is much more important.
Sooner or later — hopefully sooner — humanity will prevail against the coronavirus, but the world will be very different than it was before the outbreak of the pandemic.
The disease has felled the Trump administration and is already reshaping the world order. Africa is now again in the spotlight, as most of the countries on the continent might probably be the last to vaccinate their populations.
It is really an unenviable and pitiable position to be in. It simply means that there is a need for a renaissance on the continent, where every effort possible is invested to modernise, industrialise and create prosperous societies that are capable of taking care of their own people. This nauseating propensity to eternally look to other parts of the world, particularly the West, for research, innovations and setting the global agenda is no longer tenable and is, quite frankly, embarrassing.
Happily, Zimbabwe has since set sail to achieving its targets for a moderately prosperous society within the next nine years.
Encouragingly, away from the disease-ravaged cities, the condition of food and cash crops in the countryside is uplifting.
A bountiful harvest, which looks ever more likely with each passing rainy day, will provide the much-needed oomph to grow the economy and tamper the effects of the pandemic.
Behold, the Lord will make everything new again.