Because of its complexity, and so many expected and unexpected inconveniences, the evolving coronavirus situation opens a wide field to speculators, profiteers and false prophets.
President Museveni is seizing every opportunity to appear presidential and in control, even as the ‘mafia’ tag attached to his government still dangles freely.
Then, owners of our many churches are variously determined – some absolutely desperate – to appear relevant, although no serious nation, no serious leader, and no serious theologian believes that the virus can be cursed or prayed away.
Epidemiologists are worried that with Africa’s squalid living conditions, her chaotic administrations and limited healthcare facilities, the virus could hit parts of the continent very hard.
The experts also worry that Africa has a large reservoir of faith, fatalism and superstition, which could block the more clear-headed approaches to dealing with the pandemic.
It may sound cynical, but President Museveni has got a kind of coronavirus dividend. As he talks and talks, many of his political opponents have lowered their swords in the spirit of a nation united by crisis. They are not in full combat mode.
However, if Uganda’s advantage of having a relatively small number of jet-set globe trotters is negated by the incompetence and corruption that reportedly mark the management of incoming travellers at Entebbe airport and the quarantine regime, and if the under-resourced healthcare system gets overwhelmed by the resulting nightmare, then the President will probably have to battle his enemies again.
A tiny nuisance that is said to have started from China would have exposed the sloppiness of things under a Bush War general.
About the generalised hardship; already, the President’s anger with retail traders who have raised food prices is difficult to understand.
What is the correct price of anything in a vampire state whose old distortions have been further complicated by cumulative coronavirus effects?
Has the government supplied retail-shops and market stores with free sanitisers and staple-foods at ‘correct’ wholesale prices?
When the ruling clique wants parliamentary votes to serve its anti-citizen interests, the NRM Parliamentary Caucus constitutes itself into a den of mercenaries. The price of the MPs soars beyond their correct pay packet, removing money from the Treasury that could have helped in emergencies like coronavirus.
When coronavirus imposes its distortions, why should the little traders absorb the shock as good citizens?
* * *
The higher a monkey climbs… An African proverb. Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga of Christian Life Church in Bwaise does not love his neighbour, Prophet Samuel Kakande, as Jesus commanded. There is no day when Ssenyonga does not castigate, or refer, or allude to Kakande as a “false prophet”.
For some weeks before coronavirus (officially) arrived, Ssenyonga advertised that God would descend from heaven and spend Good Friday, April 10, at his church. A mammoth congregation was assured. Apparently, God had not foreseen that Good Friday would find the church closed.
But not all is lost. Ssenyonga and all the other commercial preachers who own radio and television stations have a plan: to stage and film themselves leading prayers in their studios and broadcast the sessions to congregations in their sitting-rooms during the 32-day lockdown.
Individuals can call to make requests for special prayers and miracles. You can even relay self/family-at-prayer ‘selfies’ and have them broadcast. Pure desperation.
Coronavirus must be interpreted to mean that you need God – or your pastor – more than ever!
So, although virtually all the pastors have appealed to the government to reduce or waive some taxes and tariffs, they maintain that their 10 per cent tithe is still mandatory. Plus offertories. Use mobile money. Even coronavirus cannot be more cunning than a holy shirk.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.