South Africa


Waiting for level 3: Drowning in a teacup and wondering if there are loved ones we won’t see again

Waiting for level 3: Drowning in a teacup and wondering if there are loved ones we won’t see again
'Due to insomnia, over the last week I have seen more sunrises than I would have liked to. But I am grateful because many others will never see a sunrise again after succumbing to Covid-19 during this time.' (Photo by Yanga Sibembe)

South Africa went into a 21-day lockdown on Friday 27 March in the hope of blocking the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown was extended for two weeks, then Level 4 kicked in. These reflections are part of a series by Young Maverick writers monitoring stay-at-home life in various neighbourhoods.

See  Pre-Lockdown Reflections here; Day 1 here; Day 7;  Day 14; Day 21 and Day 28 here, day 35 here,  day 42 here, day 49 here.

It’s possible that we may never see loved ones again

Johannesburg South, Gauteng: I’ve been struggling to sleep in the last week. It started when I fell ill a few days ago, and I couldn’t really fall asleep because of all the thing happening in my body at the time. But I took care of the illness and have since fully recovered. 

The insomnia has not dissipated though. Even with all the recommended home remedies, like warm milk before bed. 

And we all know that an idle mind can be fertile ground for overthinking. Especially during a time where there is not much you can do to distract yourself.

Given the time we’re in, my thoughts have naturally gravitated towards Covid-19, the lockdown, and the effects thereof on human relationships.

We all miss someone at this point, but we may not be able to visit them because of the lockdown. Whether it is our grandparents, parents, children, siblings, partners or friends.

I’ve thought that with this pandemic going on it is very possible that we may never see some of these people who are so dear to us. Whether they die of Covid-19 or some other way, it is a possibility that we may not even get an opportunity to bid a proper farewell to a loved one when they do die during this time. This because of the restrictions not just on travel, but the controlled numbers at funerals.

How painful that must be, not to see someone you love for almost two months, and then hear that you will never see them again. Yet it is very much a reality during this time. – By Yanga Sibembe


Is South Africa ready for Level 3?

Image: Coronavirus infections in SA per province. (Screenshot: Ayanda Mthethwa)

Ekurhuleni, Gauteng: In a few days, it will be two months since South Africa went into a nationwide lockdown. Approximately 1.5-million workers returned to work when the lockdown was eased two weeks ago as the country moved to Level 4.

Negotiations to move to Level 3 are under way, with Gauteng and the Western Cape saying they are ready to move to this level, despite having the highest numbers of coronavirus infections in the country. Both provinces are economic hubs that contribute significantly to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The number of daily infections has been growing significantly. On 20 May the health ministry announced that 803 new infections had been recorded, with the highest daily total of infections recorded on Sunday 17 May at 1 160. 

Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, was quoted saying a few days ago that case numbers will rise. In a popular presentation, Professor Salim Abdool Karim emphasised this very same point. 

As it stands, the numbers, including modelling data recently made public by the SA Covid-19 modelling consortium led by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), point to the inevitable truth that infections will rise. Much so as we approach our winter months. 

With that in mind, is the country ready to move to Level 3?

My aunt, who works as a domestic worker, recently lost her only job. The family that she has worked for almost seven years asked her to come to collect all her belongings because they ould longer afford to pay her “for free”. 

She was livid and disappointed with how the family she thought had become her own had handled the situation. But more so because she will be unable to provide for her three young daughters. She is resentful of the lockdown, but is also quick to say “the virus is out there, I know it is”. 

My aunt is not a denialist, and in fact is one of the first people in my family who brought up discussions about coronavirus in our family group chat in the early stages. 

At the same time, the glaring need for an income is unavoidable. Soon her three daughters, my cousins, will go back to school. 

Winter is fast approaching, and the anxiety of not being able to provide the most basic needs for her children is settling in. 

Opening up the economy is about saving jobs, or at least in my purview, it is. More importantly, this has to be done with the intent also to protect lives. But what about those jobs that have already been lost? Who will fend for the unregistered domestic workers like my aunt that cannot access UIF relief? What about the informal traders?

Moving to Level 3 will be a relief for many, but this should not take away from the fact that the virus is still there. We are yet to see a peak. And the devastation will be felt for a long time. – By Ayanda Mthethwa

 I’m drowning in a teacup with no end in sight

A soup mug that I bought at the beginning of the lockdown when I was a little more optimistic than I am now. It is also the closes thing I have to represent the teacup I am metaphorically drowning in. (Photo: Sumeya Gasa)

Emmarentia, Gauteng: Every week, on a Thursday morning, I stand on my balcony to take note of the activities on the main road that intersects my street. This morning is hardly any different from the previous Thursday. A few cars, a few homeless men and a few customers leaving the convenience store at the corner. 

A week or two before day 56, I had started contemplating the idea that life as we knew it might be on hold for longer than we might have imagined when, in the early days of all this coronavirus business, Patient Zero’s result came back positive for Covid-19. Before South Africa’s first confirmed case, I had been watching how this virus completely upturned the lives of those in other parts of the globe. 

As the number of local infections rose, I waited anxiously for the announcement that would see our government take charge of the situation. I was a nervous wreck before the President announced the National State of Disaster. And that day, when the announcement finally came, all the fear and anxiety burst out of me in a way the announcement was confirmation that we, as South Africans, were truly at risk and the time to change how we live was upon us. After the subsequent emotional outburst, I gathered myself and soldiered on at least in the beginning.

Now, at day 56, my mental health is buckling under the strain of the constant consciousness of this lethal virus. My mind feels foggy and I can’t seem to channel the productivity that came with the beginning of the lockdown. I feel like I am drowning in a teacup because I know my workload has not increased significantly. But I also started fasting 27 days ago when Ramadan began. And between that, work, motherhood and my newfound occupation as a Covid-19 “ruminator”, I feel I am on my last legs of mental well-being. 

But for now, I will continue with my self-care practices, which honestly don’t help much these days. And I will continue to take note of what is happening around me. In a way, all this writing from my balcony will serve as documentation of what we overcame, when we get to the year 2025. That’s a half-joke because I do expect it will take a long time to overcome the mental restructuring the pandemic came with. By Sumeya Gasa

Distracted by a Twitter trial of hopeful beauty queens

‘I really don’t think you can use your age as an excuse to be racist.’ (Photo: Chanel Retief)


















West Rand, Gauteng: If I ever needed yet another example of “don’t post something stupid on social media, it can come back to haunt you later on”, this was definitely it.

On Wednesday Twitter decided to go ham on a Miss SA hopeful, Bianca Schoombee, for tweets she made when she was 14. And today they are still celebrating the fact that she was, in a way, brought to “social media” book. 

Just for clarity, Miss SA 2020 finalist Bianca Schoombee began trending on Twitter on Wednesday 20 May after posting photos of herself as part of her Miss SA entry. However, someone uncovered a string of racist and body and slut-shaming tweets she made six years prior to her entry.

She apologised and used her age as an excuse as to why she “used to be” racist and a body shamer and asked that South Africa forgive her because she has forgiven herself.

But then, not even 12 hours before Schoombee has withdrawn her entry, Twitter brings another hopeful Miss South Africa finalist to book, Oneida Cooper, also for making racist tweets about eight years prior to her entry.

Why I care about this whole #BiancaMustFall and #OneidaCooper trend is simple. Pageantry is dubbed to be anti-feminist as well as having standards that display a lack of transformation. A lot of that changed in 2019, when in came Zozibini Tonzi who first won South Africa’s heart by winning Miss SA and then stole the heart of the world by winning Miss Universe.

When she won it set the course of some transformation because, first, Zozi is black, and historically there have not been many Miss Universes of colour (the last one was Leila Lopes from Angola in 2011). Furthermore, Zozi decided to be her most authentic self, both physically and emotionally, and not allow any “beauty standard” to get in the way of her winning that crown. She did not allow stereotypes, ignorance and westernised ideals to get the better of her and that was a beautiful thing to watch, especially as a young woman of colour.

Fast-forward to now when someone uncovers racist tweets of both hopeful beauty queens, Cooper and Schoombee, using the “N word” in their posts.

Beyond the racist tweets, Schoombee also made slut-shaming tweets like “No slut. The reason that all the boys like your photo aren’t because you’re pretty it’s because you’re almost naked.”

Though Cooper has not commented on the matter yet, Schoombee withdrew her entry from the competition after all the backlash. She also added that she hoped that South Africa would “forgive the views of a teenager, who has grown immensely and is on the road to rebuild herself as a South African who embodies the essence of our democracy”.

 I don’t think one should use age as an excuse and say they did not know any better considering that she was 15 when she made those tweets. There is a huge difference between being naive and being outright racist. And she was being racist.

It would have been a major setback for the organisation to allow Schoombee to continue to compete if she had not withdrawn her entry, especially since the organisation itself is trying to embody the notion of transformation. 

Now the question will be of Cooper who, from the looks of things, may share the same fate. – By Chanel Retief

Keeping up with routines is hard

‘Looking forward to doing something with someone I love has been one of my small joys.’

Mowbray, Cape Town: It’s been 56 days since we went into lockdown and every other day I think to myself, “I can’t believe I’m living through a pandemic.” Initially, when we went into lockdown, my plan was to have a routine: exercise, FaceTime my friends once a week, read a book, finish a book, but as the days have gone by I haven’t stuck to any of the routines I started.

Keeping up with routines is hard so I’ve abandoned them. I’m also trying not to feel bad for not committing to the routines I set out for myself because we’re in the middle of a pandemic and everything is hard.

My new thing for the past few weeks, which isn’t necessarily a routine but something I look forward to, is watching Insecure, the HBO series, with a friend. Looking forward to doing something with someone I love has been one of my small joys. – Karabo Mafolo DM


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