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Lockdown | Diary of a single, Soweto mom: 'Day zero and I know corona has stolen our joy'

27 March 2020 - 08:30 By cebelihle bhengu
SA coronavirus cases have now exceeded 900. The virus has also impacted on the daily lives of millions of South Africans.
SA coronavirus cases have now exceeded 900. The virus has also impacted on the daily lives of millions of South Africans.
Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai

It's so weird how coronavirus has us all by the balls. Have you been to Soweto in the last few days? We're out of options. We fight our government all the time because that is who we are: we are fighters.

But the new coronavirus had us confined to our homes, even before the official lockdown. We understand that it won't wait for the lockdown till it starts killing us. Aimlessly loitering about the streets is not our priority right now, no-one here is fast-tracking a reunion with their ancestors.

I'm a 26-year-old single mom from Soweto and this is my experience with the pre-lockdown anxiety.  

March 24 2020, two days before lockdown

I swear this outbreak has a way of messing with your head, no matter how informed or calm you think you are. It’s 8.25pm and I’m breathing a sigh of relief knowing that whatever happens, I won’t go hungry.

I’ve just finished packing my groceries for the month and, yup, I fell into the panic trap and went grocery shopping a week before I was due to go. The pictures and videos I saw on the socials of people flooding supermarkets and hoarding more than they need haunted me.

I don’t know what it’s like to stress about my next meal and where it will come from, but still, I was anxious that people would wipe the shelves empty come the 25th and beyond, leaving me and my two-year-old son with nothing to eat.

Covid-19 stress and a starving, crying toddler is not the combo I’m trying to go for. I mean, I’m already annoyed watching Peppa Pig from about 7am to 6pm. Lord knows I've had enough of Madam Gazelle.

How is this even my life?

My shopping experience was nothing like in the videos I saw on social media and chances are that's because we're mostly poor here. We can't just fill trolleys unless its payday. No matter how panicked you are, your bank balance humbles you. LMAO.

There weren’t many people in the store. In fact, I must have been the only one who had a big, full trolley. 

Coronavirus stress aside, I swear to God I tasted the good life for the hour I was at my local Pick n Pay. The cashier and packer were singing my praises throughout and rightfully so because that, people, was my Patrice Motsepe moment, “ay lo mam umlungu straight”, which was an implication that I was as rich as the white folks we saw on social media, because who can afford to buy so much, right before payday?

Obvs that isn't true, duh! I just said we're all poor. But I was really grateful that I had some cash left over so I could shop. No, I didn't hoard because I don't think the world is coming to an end, and if it was, then why waste money on a world that's ending anyway? Thirdly, my bank balance wouldn't have let me, even if I tried.

March 25 2020- 1 day before lockdown

The lockdown hasn’t officially begun, but in our minds it’s already here. I wonder if this is where it started for everyone else, in their heads.

Usually taxis are hooting by 4.30am as commuters make their way to work, but there wasn’t much of that this morning.  Some still go to work, but many are confined in their homes already.

There’s tension in the air and mistrust among each other. I promise you, you don’t want to sneeze or cough, it’s not worth the ugly stares. Yesterday I wanted to chokeslam this man who kept coughing next to me in the taxi on my way to buy groceries. I had to count to 10 to keep my cool.

Until this pandemic is over, this is our reality. The fear is holding us all captive.

My son stopped going to creche a week before president Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown announcement and, as a working mom who can’t afford a nanny, OMG! 

A friend said to me the other day, this lockdown will introduce some of us to our realities and damn, mine isn’t cute right now.

Anyone who knows me and my parenting style will agree that I’m super calm and relaxed. I’m the “talk to your child” type of mom because I genuinely don't believe in hitting a two-year-old whose job right now really is to eat, sleep, snack all day, play on his scooter and watch Peppa Pig.

It's just pointless and besides, I'm not trying to raise an angry child, but after hours of listening to Mommy, Daddy and Peppa Pig, I lost it. I was tempted to throw a young tantrum but quickly realised that I can't, because I always have to be the bigger, responsible person. How exhausting!

March 26 2020- less than one day before lockdown

I’m sipping beet water from my wine glass and if I wasn’t a working single mom, I’d have bought some goods there by the likwa shop, because how else does one get through this mess sober minded? But I didn’t because again, the bigger person trap and I guess I’ll live to share how TF I did it - that’s if the “rona” doesn’t cut my life short. It's not amazing, as I'm sure you've already gathered, but damn, I'd like to live a bit more. Who knows? maybe I'll win the lotto. 

I wonder if I will stay up to 11.59pm just to get a sense of the mood as we cross over to the lockdown. You know, like New Year’s Eve, but without bo’ jwals and good music, just fear and agony.

March 27 - we're officially on lockdown, 5.58am

I just opened my door to check what the vibe is like outside. It's dead, there are no taxis, no-one rushing to work. We're officially here, on lockdown and since Sowetans are not used to this stay at home, mind your business quiet life, I smell a depressing period ahead. But it's also comforting to see that people are doing the right thing.

LOL, imagine how disappointed the rona will be in the next 21 days if everyone sticks to the rules and there's no-one on the streets and no congregations anywhere?

I'm a nervous wreck right now but I really hope we all come out of this alive.