Taking strength from Madiba as we conquer post-pandemic issues

At the time of writing South Africa has just entered a secondary phase of phase three of the COVID-19 lockdown, allowing some hotels to operate and smaller conferences to take place.

It feels not unlike a butterfly slowly emerging from its restrictive cocoon, and I have no doubt that we will once again be the rainbow nation with wings to fly. I for one am greatly relieved that even smaller conferences can be held, as I have long believed that one will never replace the subtle nuances one can pick up in a live meeting and the power that they have to fully cement relationships.

It is a small light at the end of a dark tunnel for the Travel industry, but it is a beginning. We have not by any means overcome this virus yet, however, and there is still much to be done. In particular, three things that I believe we are going to really need to address and overcome are fear, abuse and great economic hardship.

Whenever I ponder such obstacles, I tend to look to those who inspire me, and there is none more than our late President Nelson Mandela. Madiba, as he was affectionately named, was not only the Father of our nation but became a global icon because of his amazing wisdom, passive resistance and most importantly, his championing of human rights.

In July, we celebrate International Mandela day and his birthday and some of his words still echo in my mind as I ponder these three great hurdles.

Fighting fear

I believe that if we are to fully emerge from this scourge victorious and get back to normality, we need to have a spirit of courage to face our fears. Parents and Mothers, in particular, have feared for their family’s lives and their survival during this time, but we are going to have to conquer that fear to give our children a better future.

Mandela said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Let’s face it; there are only two responses, flight or fight. The impact of COVID-19 is not something that we can run away from, so to fight, it is our only option.

Condemning abuse

As something of a champion of women’s rights myself, it was with a heavy heart and great sadness that I heard and read of the escalation of abuse on women as we entered phase three. This has for a long time been a primary issue in South Africa but has now reached totally unacceptable proportions, resulting in the deaths of several women.

If we, as a society, are to defeat this curse, we need to stand together to condemn it in the strongest terms. Heavier sentences are one thing, but the entire mental fabric of society needs to change to let these perpetrators know that we do not accept them as a part of our communities. We need to honestly look at ourselves and say “are we personally doing enough about this?”

Again Madiba’s words rang true for me in this regard when he said “…the first thing is, to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”

Many people will do their 67 minutes, as we are beckoned to on Mandela’s birthday, to assist the less fortunate, but how many will be actively doing something to end this abuse?

Economic hardship

Without question, we will face great economic hardship in the wake of this pandemic. In the Travel industry alone, the casualties have been massive, but as we have had to do on many occasions before we must start to rebuild after the storm. Business travel, all be it very different with much more attention given to health and safety and medical compliance, must return to normal as soon as possible – even if just locally.

As I suggested in my last article, leisure travel too must begin at home so that we can rebuild from our home base. There is a great need now for South Africans to support the local travel industry and I hope they will do so.

Taking the high road

In his autobiography ‘Long walk to freedom’, Mandela said these inspiring words, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

There is nothing I can add to that and won’t even try. To Madiba, I say thank you for continuing to show us the way through your inspiring words long after you have passed from this world. To you, the reader, I say, be positive, be strong – and especially be safe!

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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