South Africa

Lockdown Reflections: Day 84

Weighing up the price of our ‘new’ freedoms

Weighing up the price of our ‘new’ freedoms

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, followed by Level 3. These reflections are part of a series by 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, day 56 here, day 63 here ,  day 70 here and day 77 here


I don’t want to be the reason someone loses a parent or grandparent

Going to the hair salon is not a priority if it means risking lives. For now my hair care regime will remain at home. 18 June 2020. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

Rondebosch, Cape Town: Joy erupted on social media when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that beauty bars and hair salons would soon be allowed to open – under strict conditions of course. 

GIFS of girls flipping 14-inch weaves over their shoulders appeared on Twitter, while some in the natural hair squad were thanking their lucky stars they could get a decent protective hairstyle again. As great as this news is for the livelihoods of those working in the personal care industries, this undoubtedly spells disaster for the spread of coronavirus. 

As of Wednesday, the Western Cape has close to 47,000 Covid-19 cases. That’s roughly 60% of the national total. Despite this, I remember walking to the shops a few days ago with a mask on and being harassed by two drunk guys, heckling me about my cloth-covered face. 

“Eh sister, there’s no coronavirus here. Take off that mask so we can see your beautiful face.” 

Glad things are getting back to normal around here.

But it really is “business as usual” in these parts. The streets are busy again, taxis on the main road are a lot more packed than they were before. And people really have little to no regard for wearing a mask. 

I’m glad to see the fear surrounding Covid-19 is dwindling, but I’m worried that the caution is also dissipating. 

For now, the wisest thing I can do is stay home as much as possible, not necessarily in the spirit of protecting myself, but to protect others. I don’t want to be the reason someone loses a parent or grandparent, just because I needed a hair treatment. 

Stories are already emerging of children being orphaned because of this virus. If that doesn’t stir people to practise caution, what will? Perhaps it’s because the death narrative is still told in numbers or locked up in hospital wards and mortuaries. I remember HIV/Aids only becoming a hot topic among my family members when infection rates reached six digits and people started dying in the thousands. More so, the images of sick individuals revealed the horrific effects of the disease. 

I remember the Holocaust only struck a nerve with me when I saw images of naked, emaciated children in concentration camps and piles of bodies dumped in mass graves. Is that what we need to see to wake up? Is that where we want to get? 

This may be a grim tangent regarding the opening of the personal care industry, but these small gains in freedom are linked to a larger, deadlier picture. 

And although my natural locks could definitely do with a blowout, I’ve got all the hair products and hair care I need, right here at home. – Sandisiwe Shoba

It’s wild out there

President Ramaphosa addressed the nation on the evening of 17 June. The President announced a further easing of lockdown regulations and condemned the scourge of gender-based violence in the country. (Photo: Sumeya Gasa)

Emmarentia, Johannesburg: On Wednesday night President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that lockdown restrictions would be eased even further. From everything he said, it sounded like we had moved from Level 3 to Level 1. Except, he failed to mention any shift in level or even when all these new relaxations will kick in. When I awoke on Thursday, I remembered all of this and all I could think was, “It’s wild out there.”

There are so many questions that remain unanswered, the biggest one for me being: what exactly is the plan to tackle gender-based violence (GBV)?

Earlier this week, I remembered that in February Germany “gifted” South Africa with five BMWs to fight GBV. It remains unclear how these cars have been used in the fight against abusers and murderers. 

A little while before that, our perpetually “shocked” President announced that R500-million would go towards addressing the scourge of violence against women in this country. Again, how this money has resulted in direct safety for women, children and non-binary people in this country is still up for speculation.

On Wednesday, Ramaphosa relayed, vaguely, the news of reopening almost every remaining sector. People will now be able to walk into restaurants and sit down for meals again – you know, use the same crockery and cutlery that every other patron would have used. 

We can go to cinemas and gamble at casinos, get our hair done at salons again. We can even enjoy non-contact sports again and almost every other recreational activity you would enjoy in the pre-pandemic world. 

But, as far as GBV is concerned, just know that our President is a “shocked” and “appalled” “father of daughters” with no clear plan – at least yet – to end the scourge of GBV in this country.

As much I hope to see R500-million and five BMWs translate into real safety and security for our country’s vulnerable, I, like most South Africans, know too well how big sums of public money and valuable resources get used in this country.

I feel that women in this country are out in the wild on their own. And now, more than ever, women are stuck in a lockdown with a President whose indecisiveness does more harm than any intended help. – Sumeya Gasa

Music, an elixir to my anxious mind

Listening to music has helped me clear my mind as it feels like my brain is working on overdrive with everything happening in the world. (Photo: Chanel Retief)

West Rand, Gauteng: With the world feeling apocalyptic – there’s a war against the spread of coronavirus, a battle to find a vaccine or a cure, a war to stop racism and a fight to end violence against women and children – I was reminded this week of the power that music has to calm me. 

I have always listened to music and I suppose my taste in music can be a little strange, I don’t think I have ever had such an appreciation for music as I do now. 

Lately, the second I unlock my phone, my first action before doing anything else is to press play on a playlist.

I really mean anything!

Before I open any WhatsApp messages from friends, colleagues or even my boss. Before I look at my personal social media accounts as well as the accounts for work because that is my life right now, just always checking social media. Before I open emails from spokespeople or sources. Earphones or Bluetooth speaker must be connected and music must fill the air before anything else.

Depending on how I am feeling, I will either play something upbeat and dance uncontrollably. Or maybe I have a Beyoncé moment and pretend I am having my Homecoming performance at Coachella. 

It does sound silly but the world has been feeling negative lately and I don’t like how much it has inadvertently affected me and my mental space. And I have allowed it to affect me because these issues in the world do speak directly to me. I could get the virus. I am a person of colour who experiences racism (both blatantly and systematically). And I am also a woman… who fears for her life every time she walks out her door. 

So maybe it’s not the healthiest way to escape my mind, but music is the only escape I want or need right now. – Chanel Retief

Sport no longer kicked to touch

As countries around the world gingerly crawl back to normalcy from Covid-19, the one thing I am looking forward to is live sports action. (Photo: Screenshot)

Johannesburg South, Gauteng: After President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of further reopening of some economic sectors, such as salons, and allowing sitting for restaurants, it seems life is slowly crawling back to “normal”.

However, we know that despite the gradual easing of the lockdown, the threat of Covid-19 is still very much there. So in the coming months, as we try to navigate our way through this new way of life, we should tread carefully. 

Personally, I am quite excited about the return of live sports on television. I’ve already tasted it through La Liga football in Spain, as well New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, which unlike most sporting events during the times of Covid-19, allows fans into the stadium. Of course, New Zealand has this option because they’ve handled the threat of the virus admirably. 

On Wednesday, my favourite league (English Premier League) also returned. I braved the cold in the TV room to ensure I took it all in as David Luiz of Arsenal handed Manchester City the victory on a silver platter in the first match in three months. 

There is more sporting action to look forward to this weekend. And of course, in South Africa non-contact sport will soon be returning to action as well. This includes sports such as tennis, golf and cricket –  which is returning in just under two weeks, through a charity match that will be a beta test for a whole new format. – Yanga Sibembe DM


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