South Africa


Feeling the Covid-19 blues and watching tobacco ban efforts going up in smoke

Feeling the Covid-19 blues and watching tobacco ban efforts going up in smoke

South Africa went into a hard lockdown on Friday 27 March in hope of blocking the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown was extended, then the country started slowly opening up. Currently, at Level 3 of lockdown, coronavirus cases have spiked, correlating with South Africans’ dwindling appetite for following regulations. These reflections are part of a weekly series that monitors stay-at-home life in various neighbourhoods.

See Reflections for day 133 here 

‘They even deliver alcohol, cigarettes and dagga in police vehicles’

Popular illicit brands that are available in Soweto. (Photo: Bheki Simelane)

Protea, Soweto: The efforts to ban the sale of tobacco are up in smoke as the illicit sale of cigarettes flourishes in Soweto and elsewhere.

The most common cigarettes in Soweto are Savannah and RG. Both are sold openly at R60 a packet in many locally and foreign-owned spaza shops. The cigarettes are also sold openly at entrances to many shopping centres including Jabulani Mall, Protea Gardens Mall, Lenasia Signet Shopping centre and many others.

A single cigarette is sold at R4 or R5. These sales happen in broad daylight and right under the noses of law enforcement officers. It’s commonly believed in Soweto that the police don’t act because a lot of the illicit cigarettes and alcohol is sold on their behalf by hired runners who are paid a small fee.

While it is not clear where the bulk of the cigarettes come from, many Soweto residents claim these are illegally confiscated by police officers from illegal dealers for resale at exorbitant prices. A bottle of brandy or vodka goes for at least R400, and a 750ml bottle of Black Label beer costs R40.

“They even deliver the alcohol, cigarettes and dagga in police vehicles. The people who are responsible for destroying this country are the very people who are responsible for preserving it. Think political leaders and police. Police vehicles deliver nyaope, a drug responsible for the restriction of many young lives,” said a Jabulani community member who wished to remain anonymous.

The tobacco ban might initially have been effective but now it’s an epic fiasco. Considering the illicit cigarette trade’s current success, when the ban on tobacco sales is ultimately lifted, it will be near impossible to squeeze the genie back into the bottle.Bheki Simelane

Tasting the freshness of the air again 

The Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, which I consider my second home, reopened on 1 August after being closed for months due to Covid-19. (Photo: Yanga Sibembe)

Johannesburg South, Gauteng: This past weekend I managed to muster enough energy for a walk (code name hiking) at one of my favourite places in the world: the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve.

The reserve was temporarily shut down due to Covid-19. After almost five months of being closed off to the public, it was finally reopened on 1 August – to much fanfare. When I passed there while jogging on that weekend, cars lined the long street on which the entrance is found.  

I chose not to go on the first weekend of reopening because I was sure it would be congested, with people looking for any and every tool available to deal with the mental effects of the lockdown restrictions. And what better tool for healing than the sights, smells and sounds of nature?

When I eventually decided to experience nature once more, I was greeted by what has become the norm everywhere we go: a temperature check and a dose of sanitiser for the hands at the entrance. Once inside, there was signage indicating that there was to be no sitting or picnicking within the reserve, activities which were common prior to the lockdown.

I then proceeded to choose one of the more challenging trails in order to minimise contact with people. It was a therapeutic four hours of walking and taking in all my surroundings, and bumping into the odd person along the way. Having tasted the freshness of the air, I am definitely going back this weekend. Yanga Sibembe

I’m tired of Coronavirus

I’ve stopped writing in my lockdown diary because I have nothing more to say. (Photo: Karabo Mafolo).

Mowbray, Cape Town: When lockdown started I didn’t anticipate that it would significantly change my life the way it has (I’ve said this plenty of times and, 140 days later, I’m still in disbelief!). 

It’s been more than 100 days and I’m over being in lockdown. But I’m not over it to the extent that I’d pretend Covid-19 doesn’t exist and go about my life. A wise person somewhere on the internet once said, “just because you’re over the pandemic doesn’t mean the pandemic is over” and every day I just want to fast-forward to when it is actually over. 

In the second month of lockdown, I kept a diary because I thought it would be fun to document what most days are like. I stopped writing in it some time in June because I didn’t know what else to write other than the fact that I’m tired of coronavirus and I want to be living in a post-Covid world already. Karabo Mafolo

Boobs and buttocks don’t symbolise all of womxnhood

A screenshot of the proposed coat of arms taken from the website SA Good News. At left is the coat of arms in its current format and on the right is the proposed format. (Image by: SA Good News)

Johannesburg, Gauteng: On Women’s Day the news channel Newzroom Afrika launched a campaign aimed at changing South Africa’s highest emblem, the coat of arms. The campaign is petitioning for the coat of arms to include a male and female figure because, in its current state, it seems to be catering only for men. 

At 17:50 on Wednesday I text my colleagues to ask them what their thoughts are about this. Although the intention seems sincere, I don’t see how adding boobs and more protruding buttocks for one figure in the coat of arms is in any way a symbol that represents womxn. 

Is it not perpetuating gender norms and standards if womxn are represented in that single narrow-minded form? 

Additionally, I do not recall my social sciences textbooks in high school ever referring to the human figures found in the coat of arms as men or even gendered symbols.

I always viewed them as human figures, no gender attached to them.

As far as I know, they were taken from the world-famous South African images found in the Linton stone and now housed at the South African Museum in Cape Town. And were included in honour of the oldest South African inhabitants, the Khoisan.

Symbols are powerful, and they carry more than just meaning. They can shape how we view and engage with the world, and I don’t think boobs and buttocks best symbolise the vastness of womxnhood. Ayanda Mthethwa

It’s the system blaming women, for being victimised

Over the weekend, Reverend June Dolley Major and a group of activists hung panties and protested outside Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s home. Dolley Major was allegedly raped by an Anglican priest in 2002. (Photo: Facebook/Lucinda Evans)

Rondebosch, Cape Town: Women’s Day was quiet this year. No braais or alcohol-fuelled parties, and no commemorative events (except for the odd webinar). Things were relatively demure on my side of the world and of course, Covid had a lot to do with it, but it also seems “women’s day” is losing its significance. 

Not only is my generation far removed from the fight against pass laws in 1956, but the hierarchy of agenda items has shifted from apartheid and race wars to gender-based violence. Yes, most of us are sick of hearing about GBV, but until the sickening conduct of predatory men comes to an end, women will continue to rally for change.

Reverend June Dolley Major from the Anglican church in Cape Town is one woman who is being demonised for refusing to stay silent. She was allegedly raped by an Anglican pastor 18 years ago and little has been done to deal with the matter. I say “allegedly”, although I believe her completely. Over the weekend Dolley Major and a group of activists hung panties and protested outside Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s home. Apparently, one of the questions she was asked when she reported the incident was “what underwear were you wearing”. 

This reminds me of times when my mother would tell me to wear long pants if men were coming to the house. “Change out of those shorts,” she’d say, as if I’d done something wrong. It’s the system blaming you, woman, for being victimised. 

I’m sure the fruits of this painful system will be shown when the lockdown crime stats are announced on Friday. Hopefully, police minister Bheki Cele will hold off on the jokes this time and give the event the gravity it deserves. 

I think sometimes that maybe Women’s Day should be shifted to 1 August, when in 2018, scores of women marched to Parliament in the #TheTotalShutdown protest against gender-based violence. Maybe then we’ll rediscover the significance of Women’s Day and treat it less as an opportunity for parties and webinars. By Sandisiwe Shoba. DM


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