As the modified lockdown kicks in, social media, faith, backyard dribbling, friends and family keep us going

South Africa went into a 21-day lockdown on Friday 27 March in hopes of blocking the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown was extended for a further two weeks — and now Level 4 kicks in. These reflections are part of a series by Young Maverick writers monitoring stay-at-home life in their neighbourhoods.

See  Pre-Lockdown Reflections here; Day 1 here; Day 7;  Day 14; Day 21 and Day 28 here.

Dribbling my way through lockdown

This is my old football shirt that I used to train with when I played for my primary school’s football team. I’ve kept it as a souvenir. (Photo: Yanga Sibembe)

Johannesburg South, Gauteng: There is a nostalgia which comes with having a lot of time on your hands. On social media I’ve seen people flip through old albums and look back at childhood or youth snaps. A challenge trended a few weeks ago urging people to show what they looked like 10 years ago compared to now.

People have been doing things they love, which they wouldn’t normally be able to with normal routines. Some are baking, some are drawing and others are, of course, lost in the social media worlds of Tik Tok and the like.

Personally, I’ve taken to 30 minutes of running around with a football in our backyard. Growing up, I loved sport – not just watching, but playing. I grew up doing athletics and was part of our football team in primary school.

But an injury to my right knee at 12 meant when I went to high school I could not participate in much sport. I tried cricket, but I didn’t last long. As a bowler, my landing leg was the banged-up one, putting all sorts of pressure on it. I had to quit.

Later in my high-school life I did long-distance running in the athletics season. It was a way to be active without putting much strain on my knee. I had no chance of winning, but I tried and was never last. Outside school, I had kickabouts with my friends, but nothing serious enough to strain my knee.

When we left high school, exercise became difficult. With tertiary education, and some of my friends working, the days of dribbling each other in the streets became a distant memory.

In lockdown I’ve been able to reignite my limited football skills, even if I’m doing it alone in the backyard. – Yanga Sibembe

I never thought I’d see the day I’d get annoyed by social media

“I used to love social media as it was a means to stay connected, but I think because lockdown has made me use it everyday, all the time I am getting a little sick of it.” (Photo: Chanel Retief)

West Rand, Gauteng: One thing I’ve kept hearing since the start of the nationwide lockdown is how technology and social media are becoming our new best friends.

And as we go into a load shedding-like lockdown (you know, with all the levels and stages), it occurs to me that the above friendships will have to strengthen, because I don’t see people leaving their houses so easily after the passing of this pandemic. 

Maintaining relationships with friends and family has never felt more important to me than in the past five weeks. But finding a way not to get irritated with technology has been a task I never saw coming.

I just have one question: Were people always this obsessed with having so many applications on their phones — or was it caused by the lockdown?

At the start of lockdown, I was obsessed with the phone app Houseparty as it was a new way for me to communicate and stay in touch with friends. It did feel strange, because most weekends I would spend with them and now that could no longer happen.

The other day I deleted Houseparty because I realised I have WhatsApp and I can make group video calls there. And Houseparty was taking up too much space on my phone.

Then I had to download Zoom because another friend decided to start teaching her yoga lessons online as she found that “connectivity” better.

Don’t get me started on the fact that I also had to download Google Hangout on my phone for work purposes.

All that said, I think my frustrations stem from the fact that I miss communicating with people I used to communicate with often, like my friends and my colleagues.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky as, within the confines of my family home, at least I am able to be with people I love every day.

And, yes, we do get on one another’s nerves, but we are grateful we are safe and have each other to draw comfort from. — Chanel Retief

Let there be real relief for the poor after Day 35

A South African boy from the 7de Laan shack settlement holds apples he received from the 9 Miles Project Covid-19 community support programme in Strandfontein, Cape Town, South Africa, 20 April 2020.  (Photo: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA) ATTENTION: This Image is part of a PHOTO SET

Emmarentia, Gauteng: Today, I can’t help but compare the first day of the lockdown to the present one. It is colder and quieter. But, more than that, the main road I have been observing since a day before the lockdown started is especially deserted now. Apart from a few vehicles passing by occasionally, I have not seen much human activity.

I recall the domestic workers who used to congregate at bus stops before restrictions were imposed. I also recall how, on the morning of Day 1, I cried.

The night before that I had been thinking about the effects the coronavirus and the lockdown would have on the lives and livelihoods of those in the informal economy. I went to sleep with anxiety over the wellbeing of people who look like me — and woke up weeping for them.

I know that, at the end of all this, poor black people will be hit the hardest, especially economically. I know there are those who have lost a lot over the past 35 days. I have watched as the police and army brutally assault my kinfolk for doing things they are within their right to do — like get groceries.

The image of a woman carrying Shoprite bags, kneeling between police and army officials, is engraved on my conscience. At times like these I remember that, historically, law enforcement has always had it in for those on the darker side of the skin-colour spectrum.

The homeless men outside my building have been a constant reminder of the inequality in this country. I’ve watched how the history of the country has placed them in the position where they have to accept loaves of bread and other items given in charity by those who, like myself, have a little more than them.

I’ve also grown exasperated by middle-class concessions that have emerged over the course of the lockdown — making me question the mettle of this country’s leadership.

My only hope is that, come tomorrow, when parts of the country enter Level 4 of the lockdown, poor people will benefit in meaningful ways. — Sumeya Gasa

Covid-19 reality slowly unmasks

A mask, research in the journal Nature has shown, makes people less likely to release droplets of spit carrying the virus into the air that can infect others.(Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

Protea, Soweto: After almost 40 days of lockdown, the reality of the disease is slowly starting to hit home. There is a new consciousness among Soweto residents to wear masks to protect themselves.

This was not the case just a few weeks ago when many seemed to denigrate the government’s move to order that every citizen leaving their home from 1 May 2020 must wear a mask. This, however, has not changed much; despite wearing masks, many still ignore physical distancing.

Mask consciousness has hit Soweto at every level, with even many nyaope addicts ensuring they have their mouths and noses covered one way or the other. People do not seem to be aware that masks alone will not protect them from harm. Some think wearing masks means they are safe, not realising that it only works to a certain degree.

Masks are being sold all over the township. Many are made of cloth, while head scarfs are still substitutes for some people. 

A few clearly think they are immune to Covid-19 as various theories emerge, including that the virus does not affect the poor — despite stark evidence to the contrary.

Others view the monumental decisions taken by the government to close down the country as a complete farce, engineered by greedy politicians to enrich themselves. They speculate that Covid-19 does not exist; others say it was invented by the Chinese, who want to take over the world. Or…

Masked of their ability to hustle to put food on the table, the reasoning is sometimes that a mask is not a symbol of stopping propulsion in fighting Covid-19, but one whose close proximity to the nose makes for a luxurious sneeze. — Bheki C Simelane

Coping with the lockdown has meant clinging to my faith

Coping with the lockdown has meant clinging to my faith. 30 April 2019. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

Rondebosch, Cape Town: To say this is the last day of full lockdown feels like a lie. As restrictions ease up, the reality is that we’re still being forced to stay at home. Excitement about seeing loved ones again has changed to bitter disappointment and uncertainty about when we’ll be reunited. Dreams of peaceful walks in the park and beach days have been quashed.

Most of us have settled into a new normal. If we haven’t, we’re probably starting to realise that fighting the status quo is futile. Finding new ways to live life is the hardest part. Replacing old habits with new ones and fighting the idea that this is the time to accomplish something spectacular is a constant struggle.

That carpe diem spirit, unfortunately, has to compete with a lot of physical and mental fatigue. So many people I’ve spoken to say that, despite the decreased activity and heaps of “free time”, they feel more tired now than they’ve ever been. I read an article recently that attributed a lot of the lockdown fatigue to increased levels of anxiety and lack of exposure to sunlight. That makes sense.

For me, coping with the lockdown has meant clinging to my faith. My church has done a great job of creating online resources to give our community hope and keep us connected during this time. My pastor has created a series of “Daily Bread” videos which are sent via email each morning. Starting my day with a message of encouragement has eased a lot of the stress associated with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Our church has also continued to gather each Sunday for a church service via Zoom or Jitsi. Smaller groups still meet online during the week for fellowship and Bible study. Keeping that routine of connecting with the church community has been a welcome cure for the gloom and loneliness of this season. — Sandisiwe Shoba

‘I am so miserable’

For a few moments during the day I can escape to other worlds where everything is normal. (Photo: Karabo Mafolo)

Mowbray, Cape Town: I am so miserable. I haven’t seen my friends in a month which means I haven’t hugged any of them in a month.

Initially, I tried keeping my spirits high by thinking about all the things I’m going to do once the lockdown is lifted, my twin brother and I were going to get matching tattoos and I was going to get married to the first person who asked me to. 

But the longer lockdown is enforced the harder it is to think of things to look forward to “when this is all over.” 

We’re going to be in lockdown for a while which means the number of days that I’ve spent without hugging my friends are going to get longer. But this pandemic also means that when we do eventually have the lockdown is lifted, I probably won’t be able to immediately hug my friends. 

In the meantime, I’m immersing myself in other worlds where people can still touch their friends and have them over for dinner. 

In New Times, which is what I’m currently reading, there are lots of sharing meals together, touching and being out and about. 

Stay with Me and Triangulum are what I’m looking forward to reading next. At least for a few moments during the day, I get to live in another world. – Karabo Mafolo DM


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