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Covid 19 -A Month into the Lock-down in South Africa (Updated after another 15 days).

Updated on May 12, 2020
Johan Smulders profile image

Johan is a marriage counsellor and evangelist with a BA from the University of South Africa and an MA from Abilene Christian University.

Corona Virus –One Month of Lock- down in South Africa

Being isolated in your house has obviously had a serious impact on every one. Those who live in the “leafy suburbs” have had a very different experience to those in crowded townships, dormitories and small flats. For the many living in what is called “informal settlements”, it is another story.

To those who had money resources and a pleasant house and even a garden it has been inconvenient and painful because their normal lives have been disrupted. They are missing visiting friends and families, going out to exercise or attending worship or eating out. But while inconvenient, it has hardly been a hardship. What has been of great concern has, however, been the loss of income that has caught many unaware.

To those in the small rooms and squatter shacks it has been something else. One can only imagine what a challenge this has been. With schools closed and having very limited space and resources, it must be a nightmare that is difficult to even imagine. Having no food and space and very little other resources like books or games the mind boggles at the hardship.

Police and army have been patrolling the streets and sometimes abusing their powers. Many people have been arrested and fined simply because they have dismissed the rules and regulations as imposed by the government. Other criminal elements have looted shops and bottle stores and others have burned down schools. At the same time is seems as if the President’s plea for co-operation has been largely respected, and so the spread of virus has been contained to some degree. It has been one of the strictest lockdowns that we know about and was started early. After a month, with a population of over 60 million, the confirmed cases at present stands at 3465 and deaths at 90. (28-4-2020)

Now after 49 days the cases stand at over 10 000 and the deaths at over 200 (12-5-2020)

At the same time vigorous testing and tracing has taken place, with many people employed and trained to do this task at short notice. Hospitals and clinics and mobile stations have been screening and testing suspected cases and it seems as if the health services in general have been coping. What has been worrying is that several hospitals have been closed due to cases of the virus being found in staff and patients. Some have been cleaned and reopened.

What has impressed many South Africans has been the regularly briefings by the government, led by impressive medical experts. They have carefully explained where we, as a country, are, what we are doing, and what we plan to do. This has avoided confusion and helped to gain the support of most of the population. Information on how to avoid contracting the virus has been communicated through every means available to as many people as possible.(This have fallen off a bit and some of the restrictions seem to make no sense, causing a lot of unhappiness.)

What has also happened is that the government and the general public have become painfully aware of the failure of state and local authorities to assist with housing and essential services like water and electricity, even before the virus made its unwelcome appearance.

The aid assistance promised by government, coming to 500 billion rand, will obviously help with immediate assistance to people without food and in the long term help to keep the economy going. This money has been sourced from various sources. Non-governmental organizations that were already operating in the country have stepped up to the plate and food is provided on a regular basis to many of the poor and disadvantaged in the form of food parcels, vouchers and meals. Local municipalities and aid agencies have also helped with this and the general public has been generous in supporting the various funds that have been established. Wealthy business owners and well known sports personalities have also come to the party. Many heart warming stories have been shared.

So what do the next couple of weeks and months and even years hold in stock for a country like South Africa? It has been interesting that many individuals have called for a time of prayer in a country where religious freedom is practiced. Another interesting fact is that the president, Cyril Ramaposa, has consulted all political parties and other partners like religious leaders, business and transport organizations since the beginning of the crises. This has undoubtedly brought everyone possible on board as decisions have been made after consultation and have seemed to make sense at all levels.

While this is not a time to joke about such a serious event, some of the events that have happened have helped to “keep a smile on our faces”.

Covid 19 –a lighter or stranger side?

  1. The Minister of the cabinet wondering if he can get one of the 41000 water tanks that the government had procured for his grandmother in a tribal village. What did he do about it in the past years?
  2. The minister of communication having lunch with another politician who posted a photo of the happy affair on face book. Two months suspension, one without pay and prosecution pending –no such thing as a free lunch!
  3. The upmarket cooking expert in her luxurious kitchen demonstrating how to prepare meals during lock down – a great help to the vast majority of South African’s without food and many living in shacks.
  4. The journalist from Richards Bay asking stupid questions about miners returning to work. The minister of mining’s reply: “You have obviously never reported on mining before!”
  5. The Red Ants break down hundreds of shacks in Gauteng and Western Cape during the lock down? Winter and raining. Have we gone crazy?
  6. A guy and his girlfriend arrested when he was caught at a road block while smuggling her in the back of his car from one province to another. He did not have a permit!
  7. A group of about 6 policemen in Gauteng arrested for drinking in a tavern while in their uniforms. They ran away but were chased down and caught by fellow police officers. Wonder if they were keeping fit during lock down. Should have rather been breaking the rules by going to the gym.
  8. A Lieutenant General in the Police arrested for entertaining friends at a braai (cook out) in his back yard.
  9. Missouri is threatening to sue China for starting the virus. A sick joke?
  10. The “expert” in the USA saying it is all a hoax designed to create fear and the people in hospitals shown with the virus are dummies. Who is the dummy!
  11. A man in Cape Town arrested for posting on face book “How to rob a Bottle Store in Delft”. Out on R4000 bail.
  12. Trump touting a possible injection of cleaning fluid that will clean out the body of any viruses. Perhaps there is an injection to put brains into people?
  13. Some entrepreneurs selling cognac because it will cure the virus because it has 60% alcohol content. Perhaps you should wash your hands with it!
  14. At the end of an impassioned speech in front of the whole nation to announce that we were going to stage 4 in May, Mr. Ramaposa dramatically illustrated the need to wear face marks by attempting to put his mask on - with limited success. Perhaps illustrating that everyone was going to struggle in this battle.
  15. Some criminals broke into a bottle store in Cape Town to find that the owner had moved all his stocks elsewhere. So they burnt down the store. Bad planning or bad luck?
  16. Men from a funeral parlour in Kwa-Zulu were bust after transporting 18kg of Dagga in a coffin.
  17. A taxi was stopped and man arrested when an unlicensed firearm and stack of credit cards and I.D. document were found in the vehicle. A case of mistaken identity of just plain stupidity.
  18. News item: “many prisoners released from prison”. We feel like we are in prison or at least under house arrest. But a thought for those released. They may find the lock down without food makes them long to be back in prison. They were enjoying three meals a day and now they will have to forage for food without having jobs. Perhaps the government will give them a daily allowance?
  19. A man near Cape Town was found to have three sheep in the boot of his car. Did he look sheepish when arrested?

Our family enjoyed a virtual dinner with members in Bahrain, Durban, Gonubie and East London all on Zoom and all cooking the same meal; a traditional South African dish called Tomato Bredie. Recipe in District 6 Huis Kombuis Cook Book. Enjoyable event and useful diversion from daily routine.


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