Celebrating Freedom Day in a time of COVID-19

Chipo Nhapata

Reflect – On what is important

Freedom Day commemorates the first democratic post-apartheid non-racial elections held on April 27th 1994, which saw Nelson Mandela elected as President, and made freedom an inalienable right for all the citizens of South Africa – regardless of race, gender or creed. Today, this symbolic time in our history is being celebrated while the country, and the globe as a whole, finds itself at war with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of efforts to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic further gripping the country, South Africa went into lockdown towards the end of March 2020, seeing many freedoms the citizens and residents of South Africa previously had, taken away for the good and health of the nation. No one anticipated that commemorating Freedom Day in the absence of many basic freedoms could even be a remote possibility. Before the lockdown, many of these freedoms now not within reach, were undoubtedly either viewed as a given, or taken for granted by many.

Pause – What can we learn from this?

The freedoms we enjoy every day are ones to be both cherished and honored. The right to freedom should be protected at all costs by all of us, as should all human rights. The current suspension of freedoms is but for a fleeting moment and for very just reasons – the protection and health of the entire nation would have been at risk otherwise. At previous times in the history of South Africa, and the world at large, rights and freedoms have been stripped away from people for unjust reasons, and many who could have done or said something about these atrocities remained silent.

Much has been touted about how we are all in this together and we are. As difficult and frustrating as it has been at times, with each person simply observing the lockdown regulations, we put a dent on the impact the pandemic can potentially have on the country. In the face of an invisible, silent enemy, our differences have been put aside and we are all working together to beat COVID-19.

Shed – What is no longer serving us.

Too much time has been lost to the world in the past, by its people not being able or taking too long to rally together to either forge the world that they would like to see, or rid the world of what does not work for the common good.

Whether it be addressing world hunger, race relations, climate change, the gap between rich and poor, the gender pay gap, or gender-based violence, we can all do our bit to confront these challenges in our corner of the world, and make a dent.

The world does not need to wait for another pandemic or crisis to act in unison. And it starts with me – as in you and I – making a dent, however small. As the famous quote says, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. And if we all start that thing that has been on hold for so long, that change we wish to see is just around the corner.

As communications specialists our role is to shape the narrative. We need to present our clients with strategies that show them how to pause, shed and emerge out of crises.

  1. Pause:

Take stock. Whatever your client’s business objectives might have been for the current period, be able to shift the conversation with your client to a point where they are able to make an honest assessment of the current status quo of the environment they find themselves operating in.

  1. Shed:

Assist your clients in adapting their narrative to what their customers need to hear from them in order to be able to make better sense of the world we find ourselves today. Even if it means your client putting their original business objectives aside for the moment.

  1. Emerge:

Agile and responsive organisations are able to remain relevant in their customers’ minds which facilitate long term and sustainable relationships between themselves and their customers. As communications specialists our mandate is to assist our clients with interpreting and adapting to the current landscape in meaningful ways.

By our clients being able to participate in overcoming COVID-19, they will be seen as partners in creating the world we want to see and defending the things we hold dear.