The coronavirus disease – or Covid-19 – is dead serious business. According to the United Nations, the pandemic will likely consign 300 000 sons and daughters of the African soil to the grave, while slowing economic growth on the continent this year from a previous forecast of 3.2% to a paltry 1.8% and pushing 27-million people into extreme poverty, defined as “a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information”.
That said, it is difficult to ignore the hilarious titbits from across Africa when narrating the Covid-19 story. And South Africa has had its fair share of anecdotes since President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed an initial three-week national lockdown, which was later extended by two weeks to April 30, to curb the spread of this deadly disease.
The order to stay put did not go down well with some in Mzansi, including a Gauteng young man and his partner who were hell-bent on going God knows where during the early days of the confinement. The determined fellow hid his girlfriend in the boot of his car but was arrested at a police roadblock for “smuggling the woman”. The woman was also arrested, and her offence was reported as “consenting to being smuggled”.
At roughly the same time, Kenyan police arrested four residents of Nairobi, the capital city, who had disguised themselves as mourners taking a body for burial about 370 km away. The fake mourners had managed to pass through several roadblocks before suspicious officers opened the coffin and discovered the deception. The driver of the vehicle later tested positive for the coronavirus and his passengers were immediately put into quarantine. Kenya’s Health Minister said at the time that law enforcement officers were investigating various alleged schemes to circumvent the travel ban imposed on Nairobi and three other regions.
Meanwhile, in Liberia, George Weah, the 53-year-old former football wizard who ascended to the State Presidency in 2018, has decided to warn his fellow citizens in an innovative way that the virus could take away their loved ones – by belting out a song whose lyrics, which he composed himself, go thus: “It could be your momma, it could be your papa, your brother or your sister, let’s stand together to fight this disease.” The song has sparked a lot of reaction on social media, with many people heaping praise on him for taking time to sensitise the public on the pandemic. I’m sure if Msholozi – former President Jacob Zuma for the uninitiated – were still the resident of the Mahlamba Ndlopfu Presidential palace, he would have composed – and would be singing and dancing to – his own Covid-19-related number.
Out of Nigeria, I have received reports that, a while back, the bored and the brave took over the six-lane highways in Abuja, the capital city, disregarding lockdown regulations. With vehicles mostly gone, hundreds of people started doing group workouts with little concern for a disease that has killed nearly 200 000 people worldwide.
“Since the lockdown, we are just at home, doing nothing – no work, no food, nothing, so we decided to come and exercise our bodies instead of us sitting at home and just getting fat,” Akinyemi Busayo, a trader, told Reuters news agency.
Although the Nigerian government ordered people to remain indoors and isolate themselves unless they needed essentials like food or medical care, enforcement varied from the draconian – with officers beating up those found outside – to nonexistent, as with the crowds working out on the deserted highways of Abuja.
The Covid-19 pandemic is indeed a grave matter, having shut down many things we hold dear – from sports to music to the very notion of human interaction. But something hilarious is to be found in all this.