Monday Musings 08 June: Challenging Normal

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We’re just over one week into level 3, well into autumn. And, what may feel like an eternity into this global test of human resilience and patience.

As small semblances of ‘normal’ life begin to return with each easing of South Africa’s lockdown regulations, some of our collective restlessness has been diffused. But for many, the reopening of the economy is not occurring at the pace we want, or need, for the sake of our sanity and livelihoods.

With many sectors still severely feeling the pinch, and the worry that disease hotspots – primarily South Africa’s most populous areas – could be plunged back into stricter alert levels, the nation’s lockdown regulations were challenged in court last week. The ruling delivered by the North Gauteng High Court found Level 3 and 4 lockdown regulations irrational, unconstitutional and invalid.

So what does that mean for eager and anxious citizens and business owners?

The court has given Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma until 16 June to redraft the regulations in accordance with the constitution. And meanwhile, the current lockdown regulations will still apply.

Reminding us all that rules have to be reasonable as well in the court of public opinion, Advocate Thuli Madonsela of Stellenbosch University has written an eloquent and cathartic open letter to the President of South Africa, published in Financial Mail. The letter concludes poignantly, “People’s resistance to colonial and apartheid laws has taught me that when the law is unjust, violating it is not only justified as legitimate, it is exalted as heroic.” And while legal hearts and minds shake the lockdown tree to see what falls out – salons, cigarettes, or a more reasonable, socially just set of regulations – our colleagues in travel and tourism are doing their part to lobby for the lifting of international tourism restrictions.

Monday Musings 08 June: Challenging Normal 1

International tourism on standby

As some countries around the world begin to emerge from the stranglehold of COVID-19, (does anyone else have FOMO as Europeans plan their summer holidays to the Med?) there has been a flurry of media attention around speculative dates for reopening South Africa’s borders to international visitors.

South Africa’s tourism private-sector, under the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), has been engaging on the Tourism Recovery Strategy currently being developed by South African Tourism. TBCSA is advocating unequivocally for an earlier phased reopening of international tourism to South Africa – as soon as September 2020 and just in time for the summer high season.

On Friday 5 June, SATSA hosted a webinar that unpacked the TBCSA Inbound Recovery Strategy and allayed the consternation that has been stirred up in source markets. You can watch the recording here. The resounding message from the industry: South Africa is travel ready.

With our wide expanses and remote locales, South Africa has just the right stuff for safe and socially-distanced travel. And in fact, online travel website Tourlane’s new survey found that South Africa was chosen as the most popular post-COVID-19 destination among travellers. New Zealand, Canada, Costa Rica and Namibia were 2 through 5 respectively. Seeing a theme? Months of home-confinement have left perspective travellers craving outdoor adventure, active holidays, and more off-the-beaten-path destinations. Looking to further shed the restraints of your four walls? Camping and RV holidays are looking to be more popular than ever.

Meanwhile, spoilt for choice here in Mzanzi, South Africans’ travel plans are likely to include staycations, road trips, Intra-African travel, and the classic fly and flop holidays. Check out these lesser-known gems in KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape.

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Going wild for nature

Much to the delight of outdoor-enthusiasts and nature-lovers, level 3 has meant the reopening of some of South Africa’s national parks. Initially, this only applied to open-access parks (i.e. Golden Gate Highlands, parts of Garden Route and Table Mountain National Park). However, SANParks announced over the weekend that parks with self-drive options will now reopen for day visitors today, 8 June.

Capetonians, who received a slap on the wrist for non-compliance on Lion’s Head, will need to stick to their faithful Table Mountain for the time being though, as inter-provincial travel is still not permitted. For those in Limpopo or Mpumalanga, the Kruger National Park is welcoming eager safari-goers – but quotas have been slashed by two-thirds and visitors must book and arrive within specific time slots.

Gates will only allow a trickle of local tourism for the time being, but it is still a significant step for SANParks and conservation efforts. Across the continent, the cessation of tourism to national parks and nature reserves has resulted in an increase of bushmeat poaching, habitat destruction and reduced funds to address these concerns. Read more about the African safari, conservation and COVID-19 connection in Outdoor Journal’s illuminating and sombre article – sure to stoke your passion for supporting responsible safari tourism. If the bush still feels far off, join this free live webinar on South Africa’s incredible bird diversity, Dream Birds and Where To Find Them, hosted by Dream Hotels & Resorts, BirdPro and BirdLife South Africa. Register now and tune in at 19:00 on Thursday 11 June for a virtual yet vibrant dose of nature.

Monday Musings 08 June: Challenging Normal 3

 Empathy in action

Although 2020 feels like a colossal waiting-game – waiting for the next lockdown level, the curb of COVID-19, your sourdough starter to begin bubbling – time has ticked by, and somehow we find ourselves in the month of June. With nearly half the year behind us, or in front of us as some would be keen to point out, we could all do with a reminder to try to remain present, not wish time away and celebrate the things, and people, worth celebrating.

June is Youth Month in South Africa, Pride Month in many countries, and today the 8th of June is World Oceans Day. (And much to the dismay of the squeamish and lactose-intolerant, it’s also International Mud Month and Dairy Month, according to Days of the Year.)

Some of these commemorative dates on our calendar remind us to reflect on past, present and future struggles and issues, to celebrate progress and the people who fought for it, and to practice empathy, always – towards youth, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and even towards our ailing marine ecosystems. And empathy doesn’t mean you have to see eye-to-eye – it simply requires respect and understanding; to borrow from Seth Godin‘s insightful morsels, “it’s entirely possible that someone who disagrees with you feels just as deeply.”

What does empathy in action look like? It may mean listening closely, being an ally, or practicing Ubuntu.

Good Things Guy submits that Ubuntu is the philosophy we all need to follow right now. Consider how you can make a meaningful difference – donating your time, voice or money to a philanthropic cause.

With more than 1 million South Africans on the brink of food insecurity, supporting a feeding scheme is a great place to start. Food FlowFood ForwardLadles of Love, and SA Harvest are just a few of the many organisations providing meals to those in need. And here is a great list of other local charities you can donate to for relief during this difficult time.

As sweeping protests against racism continue across the US, and in other countries including South Africa, American author James Baldwin’s words have been revived and shared and are more powerful than ever: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

So while it’s tempting to sit and wait for things to get back to ‘normal’, perhaps we should challenge the old normal and spend this time playing a small role in shaping a new, more compassionate and equitable normal. (And if we’re lucky, perhaps it can include hand-sanitising robot dogs!)

Stay safe and strong!

The Big Ambitions team