Almost a year ago, the Coronavirus pandemic caused havoc – claiming lives and crippling the economy in its wake.
But when he delivered the State of the Nation Address on Thursday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa compared the character of the country to the resilience of the fynbos.
“We, the people of South Africa, have over the past year experienced a terrible hardship. Like a wildfire that sweeps across the mountainous ranges where the fynbos grows, a deadly pandemic has swept across the world, leaving devastation in its path.
“And yet, like the hardy fynbos of our native land, we too have proven to be resilient in many ways,” he said.
When the Coronavirus caused a global stir, government resolved to put the country under the state of national disaster, before implementing a hard lockdown in order to prepare the health system to cope with rising infections.
This had repercussions on the economy, with many sectors being forced to shut down and the President later announcing an economic stimulus package to aid South Africans who were impacted negatively by loss of income and livelihoods.
Delivering his speech, the President said having experienced severe injustice from colonialism and apartheid over the years, South Africa has risen “time and time again from the depths of darkness to herald a new day”.
“As we look on the grave damage that this disease has caused, we know that like the fynbos, like all those who have walked this land before us, we will rise again.
“Nearly a year has passed since South Africa saw its first case of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19. Since then, nearly one-and-a-half million people in our country are known to have been infected by the virus.
“More than 45 000 people are known to have died. Beyond these statistics lies a human story of tragedy and pain. There is no family, no community, and no place of work that has not lost someone they knew, worked with, and loved.
“It is also a story of courage and resilience.”
The President spoke about the resilience of the hospital worker who – day after day, night after night – goes to work to save lives, knowing that they themselves are at risk of infection.
“It is a wonderful account of the courage of the police officer, the soldier, the essential worker, the carer and all those on the frontline who have kept our country safe, our people fed and our economy going.
“It is a story of solidarity and compassion. Of a nation that has stood together to confront COVID-19 in ways not seen since the early days of our democracy.”
He said more than anything else, the pandemic has revealed the true character of the remarkable nation.
“It has revealed a spirit of the people who refused to be defeated. It is this South African spirit that must drive our resolve to build a new and more equal economy and a better, more just society.”