Date: 26 March 2020 By: Anton van Zyl
An open letter to our readers
We are on the brink of a total lockdown. From midnight on Thursday, 26 March, stringent measures are in place to ensure that all citizens stay indoors, not mingle and, hopefully, stop the spreading of the dreaded coronavirus.
Never before in our lifetime has a disease caused such disruption, fear, panic and compassion in countries throughout the world. Our region has not been spared, and we are gradually coming to grips with terms such as social distancing and quarantine.
What our government is doing now may be difficult to accept and understand by many of us. This step is brutal, and it will destroy thousands of businesses, it will leave hundreds of thousands of workers without an income and it will cause disruptions such as we have never experienced before.
But it is necessary.
We fully support President Ramaphosa and his team’s efforts to curb the COVID-19 disease. We do not expect them to be perfect and get everything right. Perhaps the efforts are in vain. Perhaps we can do nothing to stop the virus from spreading and killing thousands of people. But we have to unite, and we have to fight to protect our people. In this instance it means giving the government our full support, not because we are afraid of being prosecuted, but because we believe this is the right thing to do.
For the next three weeks, at least, please isolate! If you need to buy essential goods, do so in a responsible manner. Go beyond what is legally expected. Take responsibility for your own health, but, more importantly, for the others around you, which include the elderly and the frail.
Above all, do not panic.
In Douglas Adam’s brilliant science fiction novel, The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the main character talks about the top-selling book in the universe. This book, the story goes, was popular “because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words 'DON'T PANIC' in large, friendly letters on the cover.” Critics later said that Douglas Adams’s use of "don't panic" was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity.
We are all in this together and no need exists to panic or stock up on toilet paper or whiskey. If Eskom runs out of coal and the lights go out, we will all make plans. If food supplies get limited, we will make a plan. The plans will not mean succumbing to selfish requests. No, this is a time when whether you are rich or poor, young or old, or man or woman should not matter. We now have to look out for each other.
From the Zoutpansberger’s side, we have decided not to close down for the period. Our industry is considered to be an essential service, and our sentiments are that now is the time to step up and fulfil that extremely important task of being the messengers of society. This means we will operate with virtually no income for the next month, but we will continue collecting and disseminating news.
For the next few weeks, we will increase our online reporting, making this our first priority. We still plan on publishing and distributing the printed product, but we expect it to be smaller than usual. As news become available, we will publish online. We will use our website and social media pages to try and reach as many members of our community as possible. We do not charge for news, so the only cost will be the bit of data.
For going on 35 years, the Zoutpansberger has become known as a trusted and reliable source of news. We believe trusted information is essential to combat panic in a community. We will be doing our bit to keep you informed, so please:
DO NOT PANIC!
- From the Editor and team at the Zoutpansberger
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.