South Africa

Ramadaan during Covid-19 is exposing the faultlines

Ramadaan is an annual reminder to Muslims of the societal faultlines and failings across the world. Covid-19 has the same effect.

“Ramadaan Kareem” is the greeting shared amongst Muslims across the world in Islam’s holiest month of Ramadaan. It means “May the month of Ramadaan be generous to you”. And indeed, Ramadaan of 2020 has been the most generous. Amid the uncertainty of facing not just the possible infection by the novel corona virus, COV-2, but also suddenly that which which is often taken for granted, suddenly also became less certain. 

During Ramadaan, the fourth pillar of Islam, Muslims who are healthy are required to abstain from drinking, eating, and acts of physical intimacy. While Muslims dedicate more time to acts of worship such as prayer and reading the Quran, acts of charity are not only encouraged, but are a necessity during Ramadaan. Zakat, or compulsory charity is the third pillar of Islam. This charity when applied correctly would empower an individual to be self-sustaining. 

Ramadaan 2020 occurred during a period when almost the entire world was on lockdown. More poor and working class families were forced to rely on contributions for their daily essentials. 

Since inception, the Economic Freedom Fighters have not just highlighted these faultlines, but have also provided practical solutions to address many of South Africa’s societal problems. This article will focus on two of those problems.

Access to nutrition

People who eat a well-balanced diet tend to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases. The World Health Organisation recommends a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods every day. Proper nutrition and hydration are vital in reducing the impact of infection. In South Africa we have seen the opportunism of retailers to increase the prices on basic essentials. 

As the vanguard of the poor and working class families, the Economic Freedom Fighters has proposed in their 2019 election manifesto, as part of building state and government capacity, “a state-owned food stocking company (to regulate the prices of basic foodstuffs and guarantee food security for all)”.  Such an initiative would counter the opportunistic inflation of food prices and would give everyone access to nutritional food at a reasonable cost. 

The state-owned food stocking company would allow the state to set up its own food packaging and processing plants.  State-owned farms or small-scale farmers would  increase the food supply base and drastically reduce the cost of food while creating an increase in jobs. 

Adequate human settlements to improve social distancing

Cape Town in the Western Cape is the epicentre of the pandemic. Government data shows that high-density areas where poor and working class, mainly African and Coloured communities live, have the highest infection rates. The Western Cape has more than 400 informal settlements with very poor infrastructure. Its very difficult, if not impossible to practice social distancing under these conditions. These informal settlements serve as a testimony of the current Western and Cape Town government’s inadequate response to the population growth. 

In its 2019 election manifesto the Economic Freedom Fighters proposed a rezoning of all informal settlements where government will provide quality, spacious houses to all the people. These rezoned areas would be sustainable human settlements with basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation, schools, shopping complexes, sports and recreation grounds, and parks. 

The Economic Freedom Fighters proposes that the state, through a state construction company, build state-owned houses and complexes which will be made available to people on a lease basis for a period of 99 years. The state-owned construction company would employ the necessary qualified professionals, including engineers and artisans. The state would also manufacture its own materials to be used in the construction process. This would create many job and career opportunities in the field of construction and drastically reduce unemployment. 

The Islamic view on housing

Islam views the home as a microcosm of culture and civilization because the primary elements of society, individuals organized along with the family lines, are born, raised and educated in them. The strength of the institutions of the family and the home denotes the strength of society and the verve of its cultural and civilizational agenda. Similarly, frailties in the institutions of the family and the home denotes frailties in a society and in its cultural and civilizational agenda. 

The home is where people rise and fall, that is to say, where people either succeed or fail in managing the most crucial aspects of their lives. Housing is the epicentre of the rise and fall of cultures and civilizations. Muslims especially, should note that the Economic Freedom Fighters proposed in its 2019 elections manifesto an amendment to the Constitution that will ensure that access to a home is made an inalienable right. 

So as Ramadaan serves as a reminder of society’s faultlines, Muslims must also actively work towards the eradication of those faultlines. If we are sincere when we proclaim that the dignity of every human is being important, then our every action should be towards the restoration of their dignity. Just as Muslims reimagine a world post-Ramadaan every year, everyone now needs to reimagine a world post-Covid-19. 

* Nazier Paulsen is Member of Parliament and a Member of the Central Command Team of the Economic Freedom Fighters.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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