The escalation of Coronavirus cases and death toll across the globe led to the creation of a doom mantra in Ghana - ‘Kwata kwata by June de3, na obiara awu!’ a phrase in local dialect Asante Twi, translated as ‘latest by June, not a single soul would be alive’.
It is unclear who the originator of the popular phrase is. What is clear, however, is how it became an anthem.
As serious as the pandemic is, the phrase injected some humour into the tensed atmosphere each time reports of an increase in infections or deaths were announced. Friends would say it to one another and laugh over it amidst the growing level of insecurity by some others who feared they could be infected even without knowing, considering the fact that some patients are asymptomatic.
One thing that popularized the mantra was the resurfacing of the famous Ghanaian pallbearers ‘Dada Awu’ who enjoyed spotlight from the BBC in 2017 for their exceptionally flamboyant coffin-carrying dances. In the era of the pandemic, social media users adopted the troupe as a dark-humoured symbol of death. They’d flood their short videos on various platforms and caption it ‘kwata kwata by June de3…’ to join the bandwagon.
The humour continued when the mantra was featured in a comedy skit by Clemento Suarez. In the piece titled ‘ABCD of Coronavirus’ which saw him entertain and educate the general public on the pandemic, he re-echoed that death would be everybody’s portion by June but his partner in the video would ask him to retract and rather say something positive.
Akufo-Addo ‘June reliefs’
When President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced some reliefs for April, May and June, it inadvertently made the mantra even more popular as a section of the populace chorused it.
Ghana had recorded cases in March and the quest to prevent the virus from spreading led to the declaration of restrictions of movements on persons in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area and Kasoa, and the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area and its contiguous districts which had been identified as hotspots.
The decision to enforce the 3-week lockdown was taken to give government the opportunity to try to contain the spread of the virus, scale-up effectively, the tracing of persons who had come into contact with infected patients, test them for the virus, quarantine those who tested positive and isolate them for treatment.
Beyond the lockdown, the borders were closed and a ban placed on public gatherings. These measures had dire economic consequences on the Ghanaian people. The president, thus announced some reliefs scheduled to end after June. Among others, the government was to absorb water bills for all Ghanaians for April, May and June; give tax reliefs for all health workers for the months of April, May and June; and give additional allowance of 50 per cent of frontline workers’ basic salary per month for the months of March, April, May and June.
Some were sarcastic in their remarks as they linked the announcement to the ‘By June’ mantra.
Although it was a mere prediction which metamorphosed into a slogan, some people would not take it lightly. They’d rebuke whoever trumpeted it, not only because “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” as stated in Proverbs 18:21 – they just did not fathom why ‘doom’ proclamation would be the order of the day.
“Who the hell said we’d all be dead by June? Is he/she God?” a visibly angry man told GhanaWeb in a vox pop.
It was the last day of the month of May. In few hours, there would be a crossover. Predictably, social media platforms would be flooded with comments which could be termed 'sarcastic'!
Since you said "By June de3", prepare for tomorrow #daterush— Elijah Bance Sarkcess? (@elijahsarkcess) May 31, 2020
By June de3 na Obiaaa Awu,So tomorrow is the month of June, so how are we going to die?— Kofi _ Yo? (@KofiMadridista2) May 31, 2020
Surname or line by line?
Well, whether you enjoyed, panicked or roared at the mention of the phrase, it is dead but you’re alive!