There is an affectionate expression in Kreol, when you come across a friend or acquaintance looking down or stunned. It goes like this: “What’s the matter? Inn perdi tablisman?” Literally, “Lost your sugar estate?” It is a pun: During the post slavery era, when the labour laws were no longer the draconian Code Noir, there were new Indentured Labour Laws that nevertheless strictly curtailed free movement. Workers – indentured or freed slaves – had, at all times, to be on the sugar estate where they were indentured and nowhere else. So, that was the main meaning: “Have you wandered out of your zone, and maybe don’t know the way back?” The other meaning was the joke, pretending that you used to be owner of a sugar estate, which somehow you got done out of – referring to having ended up here in Mauritius. But, whichever way, it was a joke about the lack of free movement.
The new regime for the Covid Lockdown, as there is a partial lifting of restrictions for the next 30 days starting now, is not dissimilar to the times when you might have strayed off your sugar estate. At any point, a police officer might come up to you, should you be messing around somewhere, and say, “What’s up? Lost your sugar estate?”
From today, though more people will be out-and-about, it is strictly on “Work Access Permits”, now called WAPS. You have to carry your WAPS and you have always to be en route between your home and your place of work or else you are out of bounds. If you haven’t got one, you can only go out to the shops on days when your letter of the alphabet permits. Therefore, you have to produce you ID Card. In Apartheid South Africa, you had to have something called the DomPas – which also had a joke involving it being a “stupid pass” – to move around.
Anyway, from today, despite the fact that there are already as many as 32 new cases so far today, more work sectors are now open. It seems erroneous. But, from today, non-essential shops of all kinds, hair dressers, and public transport are all up and running. So, there is a partial lifting of the lockdown from 1 – 30 April. At the same time, there are also more “zones” being decreed. As well as “red zones” with stricter conditions and with less in-and-out movement (Constituencies 15, 16, and 17 taken as a block; and Canot; and Souillac Hospital for example), there are also “yellow zones” which are, if I understand it right, parts of “red zones” that have been excised and put back with the rest of the Island of Mauritius, after negative random Covid tests.
The capitalist system, in surviving the health crisis that Covid poses, is exposing its bare bones: we, working people, are, once again, exposed as being pure “labour power” – as we were in times of indenture. There is so little democracy that we are either unable to curtail the epidemic, or we are reduced to being controlled by the State. It need not be like this. And in Mauritius, we know it. We controlled malaria by our collective behavior relative to the mosquito. Now, it is up to us to control our behavior relative to the Novel Coronavirus to control the epidemic, ourselves.
But, it seems neither the present MSM-ex-MMM regime nor the Opposition Labour, on one hand, and PMSD-MMM-Nando Bodha, on the other, are being at all helpful. They seem to fuel each other’s irrationality – from before the Covid epidemic, and as we move through the successive waves of it.
So, it is up to us to organize. Through our unions, associations and political parties like LALIT, to manage to control the spread of the illness so that we can get beyond this restriction on our free movement. We have to organize to do it. Using cellphones, mainly. So, let’s get going. We will fling bus windows open, wear our masks snug just under our eyes, keep a good distance from others, avoid gatherings and yet nurture all our contacts – in the neighbourhood and with work-mates – and wash our hands with rigour and regularity. And we will help get everyone to understand the significance of us all going out there and getting the vaccine. It is so small a thing to do. And keeping this basic level of organization going will help us fight for all our rights as we pull out of the epidemic soon – and not let the bosses, and their state, continue to curtail our rights.
As you can see, we have decided to keep this blog going in the new stage of lockdown. After all, we are still asking each other, “What’s the matter? Inn perdi tablisman?” Please keep sharing the blog, and discussing it with friends and colleagues and comrades over the phone. And remember to inform people of the Kreol version, just in case they don’t know. That is the work of two other members. And there are another two that check my English draft before it goes public. So, even though we are under restrictions on our free movement, we can at least do this collectively, though I, of course, sign it because we do not meet to discuss it. Both versions are perhaps easier to read on our site www.lalitmauritius.org but are also, of course, on our LalitMauritius facebook page.