‘There is no lockdown here’: Diepsloot residents won't stay home as hunger sets in

21 April 2020 - 06:42 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Residents of Diepsloot are seen on the streets, seemingly ignoring the lockdown regulations.
Residents of Diepsloot are seen on the streets, seemingly ignoring the lockdown regulations.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi /The Sunday Times

Diepsloot residents are continuing with life as though the country is not under lockdown.

In the swirl of cars and the routine army patrol in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, a woman is getting her hair braided, young men sit, relaxed, outside their shacks. Others stand in long queues.

Resident, Lebo Mphela says she would rather roam the streets and “hustle” than stay indoors, starve and wait for food parcels.

“How must I feed my family with one butternut, a small bar of soap, cabbage, six oranges, onions and potatoes? What about maize meal, cooking oil or mere salt? They don’t even last two days...” Mphela said.

Mphela is one of the many Diepsloot residents who are going on with life as though the country is not under lockdown.

“No one cares about us. Our leaders don’t care. They are mum because they don’t starve like we do. People wake up at 5am to queue for the food but come back empty-handed. It’s a struggle. We lived in questionable circumstances before and it's worse now; we can't just sit indoors.” she said.

Another resident, Katherine Machabela stands outside her shack as the army and police patrol passes by on her street.

“Food parcels? What food parcels. People queue at schools and clinics waiting for food parcels but come back empty-handed. Only a small portion of people here get the food. We don’t understand why we were promised food if we’re still hungry.

“None of my friends in my area told me about getting food. We’re all just waiting. By the time they are ready we might die of hunger,” Machabela said.

A man sells vegetables on the streets of Diepsloot during the national lockdown.
A man sells vegetables on the streets of Diepsloot during the national lockdown.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi /The Sunday Times

Standing outside her shack with brooms hung up for sale, Machabela further added that the community has not changed its attitude under the lockdown.

“People wake up and get into long queues and don’t give each other space. They walk around with children too. The coronavirus doesn’t care if you are hungry, people here don’t get it. The shops don’t do enough to regulate the people, they must walk in and get out quickly, not this thing of camping and socialising there.

“They don’t think it affects them, they don’t care. Imagine how fast the disease can spread in a place like this.”

Isaac Masindi, a plumber, sits at a stall on the side of the road, unperturbed by the presence of law enforcers. He and many residents in Diepsloot show little care for the strict regulations that require people to stay home in order to contain the spread of Covid-19 .

“We’re hungry. We feel crippled by all of this because our stomachs stay growling. If you didn’t have little savings you’re in danger. Some people are allowed to work but others are not. But what about us people who don’t get paid if they don’t come to work.

“My company is not allowed to let all of us back, only people who do maintenance are back to work, not all of us. I’m not upset that the government is putting measures into place to fight the spread of coronavirus, but it’s not affecting us the same way. You might find that someone doesn’t even have a mere cabbage,” Masindi said.

Kate Mphahlele, the ward 95 councillor, admitted that not a lot of people have received food parcels in the area, further adding that her ward had not received anything yet.

“Mostly people from ward 113 got something but some wards have not yet received their food. We have submitted the applications and hope people will be fed soon,” Mphahlele said.

Maria Mofopha, a health worker from Diepsloot, said it was worrying how the community was not adhering to the lockdown regulations.

“There’s no lockdown here. They hang out in groups and play games, there’s no seriousness. The police andarmy are patrolling but people don’t respond as they did before, they don’t care anymore.

“Since it was reported that the government has reprimanded them for some assaults, they have become completely helpless, they can’t execute their duties because they fear backlash. People think their rights are more important than their health,” she said.

Katherine Machabela is concerned about how the lockdown is being handled in Diepsloot, saying that people were not informed about Covid-19 the way they should be.
Katherine Machabela is concerned about how the lockdown is being handled in Diepsloot, saying that people were not informed about Covid-19 the way they should be.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi /The Sunday Times

Mofopha was amongst the group of field health workers who were conducting Covid-19 screenings at the taxi rank.

“We started screening today. People are coming in their numbers. We went door to door mobalising and they came. There’s no lockdown here. Most of them want to be screened at home. Some demand hand gloves and masks. Everyone is doing as they please.” Mofopha said.


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