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Lessons on self-reliance

24 April 2020

To ride out any storm effectively, one should be self-reliant and resilient. That means one has to anticipate problems and have possible solutions ready.

As we ride out the Covid-19 coronavirus storm, we need to figure out how self-reliant we are.

How resilient are we as a nation?

History has taught us that self-reliance and resilience were essential in the ancient world, where the threat of starvation, disease or disaster was permanent, and death was everywhere.

Teaching self-reliance

My mother and grandmother taught me that only the self-sufficient – those who have the capacity to provide a basic living for themselves and their families, and have the mind-set to be content with those basics – stood a chance of survival, even in the dark days of apartheid.

They taught me to appreciate that the long-term prosperity of any society rests on the critical balance in the relationships between mothers and fathers, their children, and the sense of belonging and togetherness of a community.

This balance is critical and its absence has been demonstrated in the rising number of gender-based violence (GBV) cases plaguing the nation.

The GBV scourge and the Covid-19 coronavirus have become a dangerous cocktail.

THIS IS A DEFINING MOMENT FOR US TO TAKE A PATH THAT LEADS TO SELF-RELIANCE BY CREATING INDUSTRIES THAT WILL HELP US TO REVIVE THE BRUISED ECONOMY. 

Bakpot and potjiepot

When my mother and grandmother taught me to make bread using a bakpot in a wood fire, they watched with pride as I made the best roast using the same method and their recipes.

They also taught me to make the best stews using the three-legged potjie pot. Back then, I didn’t realise they were inculcating a sense of self-reliance in me.

During the lockdown, I have spent time remembering my fallen heroines, my mum and grandmother.

Their recipes have come in handy as I have not had to leave my house to buy bread.

I am grateful to them for imparting this attribute of self-reliance in me in my youth.

Self-reliance is not about being financially independent; it is not about shouldering every hardship you face in the lockdown alone.

It is about reflecting, leveraging and learning from the opportunities that exist within the adversity of the pandemic.

For me, one’s true purpose is not only to be a corporate animal fighting wars in boardrooms, but also to practise and impart self-reliance in our children and their children.

WHILE SOUTH AFRICA AND OTHER COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD ARE UNDER SOME FORM OF LOCKDOWN, THOSE WITH SIGNS OF COVID-19 ARE BEING ASKED TO SELF-ISOLATE. BUT DO WE HAVE THE MIND-SET FOR IT?

It is a pity that thumbing through the pages of daily newspapers, scanning social media and watching TV news can scare us into submission and giving up. Let us do that with caution and be conscious not to spread fake news.

Rather, let us follow formal and official regulations.

As I observe the lockdown, there is no doubt today’s life –buffeted by the pandemic – requires constructing a menu of disciplines, rigours and instructions conducive to the grit, resilience and self-reliance required for democratic citizenship.

What is important is the gift of life, which comes before any other priority. That requires self-reliance, a form of self-sufficiency.

While South Africa and other countries around the world are under some form of lockdown, those with signs of Covid-19 are being asked to self-isolate. But do we have the mind-set for it?

Families as problem-solvers

As we work hard to win the Covid-19 battle, now more than ever before we need families and communities to solve problems collaboratively, working together, promoting compliance, and fiscal and individual responsibility.

As we lock down with our families, we need to teach our children what F Scott Fitzgerald, the US writer whose novels depicted the flamboyance and excess of the jazz age, taught his daughter:

“Nothing any good isn’t hard.”

Developing self-reliance is not an easy task. We are born into dependency, reliant on families, communities and the government for survival.

But self-reliance is also an umbilical cord of family, community and our relationships. Self-reliance makes families, communities and nations tick.

Cooperatives

I will not forget my visit to the Moscow War Museum.

What left an indelible mark for me was how Russian women formed community-based industries to produce essential supplies while the men were at war.

This led to community-based collaboration and self-reliance.

For me, the key to community mobilisation lies in identifying the unrecognised gifts, assets and capacities of citizens; discovering their motivation to act; activating community leaders; and capturing community resources to support their work.

As the government becomes stretched out and stretched thin, and struggles to do more with less to curb the pandemic, we must recognise that one untapped resource is the unlimited capacity of citizens to use what they have – their gifts, assets and capacities – to get what they want to improve their communities.

Therefore, Covid-19 should drive us towards more cooperativism – a process when an association of people voluntarily bond together for mutual economic, social and cultural upliftment.

In Brazil, I observed how cooperatives were the glue that could bind communities together.

I observed how they provided products and services, such as credit and loans, and consumer items, such as agricultural products, handicrafts and other services.

These were crucial contributions to the overall entrepreneurial activities of the economy and the gross domestic product of the country.

Cooperatives play a pivotal role in the socioeconomic development of communities and this should not be different at the end of the pandemic.

Self-reliance for the future

So how can we apply the principle of self-reliance to beat the virus?

We can start by accepting individual responsibility. That is, the degree to which we follow the lockdown rules.

Instead of wishing to please others, we need to do what is right.

I know that this year’s Easter weekend was odd without our diverse religious practices that strengthen our spirituality.

It taught us self-discipline and compliance even if it was painful and against our varied religious beliefs. Let us be united in prayer.

Self-reliance does not only apply specifically to individuals but to countries as well. Self-reliance should form part our nation’s post-Covid-19 strategy to rebuild our economy.

We should apply the notion of self-reliance in the manufacturing sector to produce healthcare supplies, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).

That way, we would not have to depend on other countries for PPE in the next crisis or pandemic.

Self-reliance can and should be a job creator after this crisis.

For me, it is heartening that arms manufacturer Denel is getting ready to manufacture medical ventilators to be used for the intensive care of Covid-19 patients.

This is a defining moment for us to take a path that leads to self-reliance by creating industries that will help us to revive the bruised economy. Let Covid-19 drive us to greater self-reliance strategies.

HISTORY HAS TAUGHT US THAT SELF-RELIANCE AND RESILIENCE WERE ESSENTIAL IN THE ANCIENT WORLD, WHERE THE THREAT OF STARVATION, DISEASE OR DISASTER WAS PERMANENT, AND DEATH WAS EVERYWHERE.

Indeed, the best defence is to be prepared.

The next time a negative thought about the pandemic rears its ugly head, let us choose to focus on a positive thought that drives us to self-reliance.

Let us remember to keep a journal and record all challenges as well as successes that we have experienced daily during this lockdown.

The successes will inspire us to do more and lift one another when we’re feeling discouraged by the negative news about Covid-19.

If you suffer setbacks, look for ways to change them into victories. Self-reliance is about stepping out of your comfort zone by vowing to join the ranks of those who make things happen.

That is to say, the causes and solutions to our problems lie within us.

As Covid-19 endures, it’s time to rely on our inner resources, strength and wisdom.

The key to unlocking these inner resources is to make a heartfelt commitment by repeating aloud the ancient saying: “We carry inside us the wonders we seek outside us.”

Mokgokong is chairperson of the Afrocentric Group, South Africa’s largest health administration and medical risk management solutions provider, which owns Medscheme

 

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