From a dual income to dololo earnings: this couple's rent, food & chronic medication is at stake

15 May 2020 - 09:18
By Jessica Levitt
The just don't have any money coming into their household.
Image: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko The just don't have any money coming into their household.

She has a rare autoimmune disease and can't afford the necessary blood tests.

She's in the hotel industry and he works in fitness. So when lockdown regulations were implemented, both were hit hard by the sudden loss of income.

Not only have they had to ask for relief on their bills, they only eat two small meals a day and have cut out critical medical care to save cash.

It's their health or a roof over their heads and they've made the decision to try to keep their home and cars ... for the moment.

The couple from Joburg's West Rand area have decided to open up about their financial woes, but only on the condition of anonymity. 

Their health at stake

*Mary, 37, has a rare autoimmune disease which requires her to take bloods tests every two weeks so her medication can be adjusted.

Her medical aid plan doesn't pay for the tests and she's had to skip them altogether since she has received no income. She knows this is putting her life in danger, but with no money coming in, she says she has no choice.

*Peter, 34, has been kept awake by anxiety over unpaid bills and the possibility of losing all his clients during lockdown. He has resorted to taking sleeping tablets to help relieve the stress and constant worry.

Money making changes

The couple are considering downgrading their medical aid plan, suspending their car insurance and cancelling a storage unit they had.

In the unit, was furniture and goods from another life which they planned to use when they got a bigger house together. The future, already bleak, now means they could sell some of the goods in storage to try to make extra money.

The job situation

*Mary's company has claimed from UIF but she has received no money for April. 

“I worry that my hotel might close or that I might get retrenched when we go to level 1 and we are allowed to open. I won't be able to survive until October without an income so I'm considering a career change. At 37. Who would have thought.”

*Peter's industry also only opens under level 1 and he said his biggest fear is that his clients will not be able to afford him as they too have suffered. Because of this, he has been doing some illegal sessions.

Their relationship

They were already on a tight budget before lockdown, living from month-to-month. The sudden and prolonged lack of income has forced them to re-evaluate every cent they spend. 

“We've been supporting each other as much as possible,” says *Peter. 

*Mary says lockdown has brought them closer, but being together 24/7 when they are usually out working long hours does mean “they have their days”, just like any other couple.

What does 2020 look like?

“I don't know. I just don't know,” says *Mary. Already admitting to considering a career change, she says there is a lack of job opportunities available. *Peter says he will spend time marketing his business online so that when the fitness industry can open, he can get more clients.

For now, they spend their days trying not to let their minds wander. They are still working out in the confines of their home.

They are trying to make the best of their limited food situation.

They know that if they allow themselves to dwell on the catastrophic financial situation they are in, like many other South Africans, they won't be able to lift themselves out of the darkness.