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Day 18 – Shouting from the Rooftops and the Need to Get Food Security Going


The day began with a neighbour getting up on his house (a double storey house, so high up there) and shouting literally from the rooftops. 

 At first it sounded like one of the usual domestic rows, but soon it became clear that it was a bad case of cabin fever, after 18 full days of lockdown have passed. So, bare-topped, wielding a stick, prancing around in a dance, and swearing at people unknown and their mothers, the  man then began to threaten people also unknown, and then to announce that if they didn’t watch out, he would jump off. This line then morphed into singing religious prayer songs, as if he was perhaps seeing himself at his own funeral, and then to saying he respected the Government, in a tone that implied he had been accused of the opposite. The word “government” seemed to spin him back to a cursing mode. But then he soon swerved into singing a kind of nursery rhyme really loudly, “Anu al marse, anu al marse”, inviting someone to go on a walk with him. A neighbour nearer to him spoke to him gently from below. And he then apologized to him, and to the neighbourhood, perhaps for his foul language, alleged lack of respect for the government, or for his decibels, it was not clear. Then started to swear all over again. This time, he took his trousers off and was left in his blue underpants against the blue sky. Soon afterwards, a group of his friends and our neighbours went up, and cajoled him down. So, it ended as happily as such a thing can under these social conditions. And I guess we were all saying to ourselves, “There, but for the grace of god, go I.”

 Kisna has set off on her bicycle. It’s her shopping day, by alphabet. She’s got a list of butter, cheese, lentils and grapefruit juice. And she will also see if she can spot the flu vaccination caravan which is in Bambous today. Earlier, we heard by telephone that it was sighted in Cite La Ferme. 

 And this morning we managed to open a second coconut. Not an easy feat. It was particularly huge, with enormous amounts of “cocoyer” between its hard shell and the outside tough skin. No, I will not put myself on YouTube doing this on a hoe. Well, not until I’ve had some lessons from friends that are Chagossians, and who can do it in a few deft movements. Then Ram made two bowls of satini koko, after roasting the coconut, adding mint brought around by a friend coincidentally called “Coco”, plus an apple and chili and lemon juice and salt and a tiny bit of garlic. 

 Anyway, even as we all manage or try to, even with the odd bout of cabin fever, the epidemic, as it progresses across the world, is taking its toll on health care facilities and in terms of suffering and death. This is despite the lockdowns that really already minimize the effects of the disease. Coming off the lockdown will not be easy either. The virus is good at jumping back at us.

 Meanwhile, a friend has phoned to tell us that the Government’s payment of Rs5,100 to each small self-employed person (i.e. half the minimum monthly wage) has reached her bank account. So, that’s good news for all those who were in distress on account of the informal nature of their work. 

 How relatively easy it is to re-organize life. The food hampers delivered for the poorest. The pensions for all over 60 including hand delivered to half the people because they do not have bank accounts. This, too, like the food hampers, is with the help of the postmen – to find the person’s place of residence. And apparently with police assurance for each little delivery team. Then there is also the ease with which there has been the unification of the private clinics into one universal health system. Even if it ends up having been temporary, it can be done. All we need to do afterwards is share out the work and the decision-taking. And we will have got on to the other side of capitalism. The only thing is that the capitalist class will hold on mercilessly to their stocks, and the state will protect them until the working class challenges them by a massive degree of organization (not easy under lockdown) around a clearly understood and shared program on how to change things.

 What LALIT calls for right now: The Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, who also happens to be the Minister of Justice must at once announce an agreement with the big land-owners for a “food security” planting-and-preserving plan. We propose one-third of the land is at once prepared for food crops, while each of 20 or so sugar estates or ex-sugar estates’ infrastructure gets retro-fitted for food preservation and transformation. Otherwise, Mauritius will be at risk.

 Lindsey Collen

for LALIT, a personal view.