Diary Pages: Lockdown Extended

On the 9th April President Ramaphosa announced that the Lockdown would be extended in an effort to contain the virus. We asked our diarists how they felt about the news.

Widespread Understanding on the Need for an Extension

Despite the hardships that the extension has bought for many – particularly those in townships and informal settlements – there was a broad acceptance that the crisis remained serious and that an extension to the Lockdown was warranted. Several diarists referred to the statistics in the President’s presentation, which had convinced them of the need for an extension.

“To be honest it was a good Idea because according to the stats the cases grows every day and it wouldn’t be a great to let people risks their lives.” – Andile, Khayelitsha

“[I am] Disappointed but also accepting. We have to trust the leadership of the country and that they are acting in accordance with best science and best advice, and that there is not some other agenda. Trying not to dwell too much on all the negatives and fear about the current and future economy. It’s too much to even begin to grasp and just makes one miserable in circumstances where there is precious little we can do about it now. The really hard work is still to come.” – Judy, Newlands

“Even though we are going to suffer a great loss from our education system and also to our jobs I feel it is for good cost looking at the statistics our president president presented to us it shows that the country is really working together in this pandemic maybe extending the lock down for 2 weeks will help us more to contain the spread of Corona.” – Luyolo, Khayelitsha

“I share the fears of probably everyone in South Africa about the economy with the extended lockdown, but I don’t know that there was ever any other option. I wish there was more clarity on what individuals could do to help those in need of more support. I feel that the president was very calming and logical in his address, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to be leading our country right now.” – Natalie, Newlands

Urgent Concerns for Survival

Although there was a broad understanding of the need for a Lockdown, everyone was concerned about daily life for those without jobs and access to support. Many faced a paradox of protection: They wanted to protect themselves and their loved ones by observing the lockdown but if they observed the lockdown they would no longer be able to feed, clothe and support those they were trying to protect. The idea of facing another two weeks without a plan for systematic support filled many of those who were already struggling with fear, anger and frustration.

“The lockdown really killed us, as person who survives on temporal jobs, I am now just sitting at home and I have nothing. The kids are hungry, things are very difficult at home and I can’t even go look for something. My neighbors are in the same situation, we are really struggling, it is even hard to see your relatives. On the other hand, there is fear of this coronavirus, it is hard to sleep at night, thing are really tough. Out of the things in this lockdown the hardest one it is going hungry.” – Sam, Khayelitsha

“Here in Mfuleni some people are not happy about the Lockdown reason is some are unemployed the only way to make a living was by doing part time job but now they are unable to do anything .They are afraid that they might die of hunger rather than the pandemic illness(Corona Virus). The students in my community are worried that they are getting behind and they have the fear that they might end up not going to school anymore because of the lockdown extension. Some of the community members do think that that the Lockdown is a good idea in terms of less spreading of the virus.” – Kungo, Shukushukuma

“People are so angry at the government’s decision of this lockdown extension because Thina (Us) in our community we are very angry about the lockdown or shutdown because we do not have food to eat and we scared if we going to lose our jobs and the president haven’t said even word about the parents who selling foods on the roads to feed they family’s how they going look out in this difficult time we facing in South Africa.” – Thembisile, Imizamo Yethu

“The extension is very frustrating because it means that for an entire month we cannot and thus not get paid. Next month is going to be even tougher, we need winter clothes, we also need other things that we can’t get at supermarkets during the lockdown. This is a very difficult time for us and a lot will change in our communities.” – Assie, Khayelitsha

Questions Over the Effectiveness of Lockdown in Townships and Informal Settlements

Participants in townships and informal settlements have been reporting that observance of the lockdown has been limited, although many of the participants themselves have been observing the regulations. Lwando, in Imizamo Yethu, for example, explained that whilst he was on Lockdown, the streets remained busy: “It’s the same as usual like nothing is happening – people [are] not taking it serious”. His words were echoed by other diarists who reported that it was “business as usual” in their areas (Ayanda, Khayelitsha). Participants worried that if the Lockdown was not observed effectively in their areas, then the virus would spread quickly and any efforts they made to observe the Lockdown would prove ineffective.

“I’m sad that I’m not able to move I have to stay at home and do the same things over and over again. And what is worse I feel like this was never a lockdown to some people because they have been roaming around the streets since day one and my fear is that this virus will spread so badly that we wouldn’t even be able to control it. People do not want to abide by the rules, I fail to understand why my people are so stubborn and won’t do what is expected of them… And the police seem to be less interested when it comes to informal settlements, they are never in our area.” – Nomaxabiso, Khayelitsha

“I think it is necessary for the president to extend the lockdown as he outlined how staying at home has helped in reducing the spread of the virus but my concern is people are still outside and doing their things and law enforcement agencies are no longer doing patrols in making sure people are inside their houses in a good manner.” – Siphenathi, Khayelitsha

Participants are also keenly aware of any sense of injustice at this time, between neighbours, between areas and between elites and ordinary citizens. When people are sacrificing a great deal to observe the Lockdown, any sense of injustice is potentially inflammatory.

“The extension is good. However, the government should feel for the poor and allow the shops to re-open for at least two days to give us a chance to buy essentials. People in my community are complaining about the extension especially given the impunity of some ANC MPs and Ministers. They should also be treated like ordinary citizens.” – Lumkile, Khayelitsha

Concern for the Long Term

Even those who felt able to tackle another two weeks of Lockdown were worried about the longer term – When would the lockdown end? What longer term plans might the governmet have for supporting those who were struggling?

“It’s a good decision with a huge challenge… We been doing it for 2 weeks already. Another 2 weeks can only keep us safe . I must admit if it should continue for longer….🤦‍♀” – Ameena, Woodstock Occupation

“Honestly I am caught between a rock and a hard place because the rate of infections has decrease and the number of recovery is increasing which the lockdown did work to some extent but at the same time there is still the issue of economic decline which will come to hit hard the working class because lot of jobs will be lost and people will go hungry and we haven’t even heard if the government has a plan after the lockdown to assist people who lost their jobs, small businesses who lost income and lot of debts people will people themselves due to loans. It’s a hard choice of whether to save lives or the economy.” Esethu, Khayelitsha

Questions:

  • What forms of government support would make the Lockdown possible for those who are currently struggling to survive?
  • How can the government better communicate its long-term plans in an evolving context to reassure its citizens?
  • What can we learn from the effectiveness of statistics in the government communications around Covid-19 for future public health campaigns?

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