'Gauteng is a ticking time bomb': pregnant mom on bringing newborn into the world during pandemic

Hope, fear and uncertainty as we complete 100 days of lockdown and look to the future

04 July 2020 - 07:09 By naledi shange and Shonisani Tshikalange
Zanele Zama and her husband, Sthandwa, who are expecting their third child, say this pregnancy has been different, tougher and more scary because of Covid-19.
Zanele Zama and her husband, Sthandwa, who are expecting their third child, say this pregnancy has been different, tougher and more scary because of Covid-19.
Image: Supplied

During 100 days of lockdown, daily routines have been turned upside down, and have changed how we interact with people, run businesses, seek employment, raise children and bring a newborn into a world rattled by a global pandemic.

TimesLIVE asked five people to share their experiences of the lockdown so far, and detail what they expect over the next 100 days as the coronavirus sweeps across South Africa.

Johannesburg mother Zanele Zama is expecting her third child, but this pregnancy is unlike the others.

The challenges started when restaurants were forced to close their doors - and the fast food cravings kicked in.

“It was hard to satisfy my food cravings. My husband tried making homemade Nandos for me because he could see how tough things were,” she said.

Then there was going for scans to see their daughter's progress.

“I never thought I would be going to the gynae alone, but Covid-19 had its own plans. Looking at our daughter grow inside me without my husband made me feel lonely and anxious. I wanted us to experience this beautiful journey together again, but we couldn't. With our daughter arriving at the end of this month, I'm not sure if I am ready.

"With the last baby I had everyone to help, but now because of regulations and precautions, my husband and I will be alone. My mother won’t be able to travel to help me in confinement. She's very old and a high risk for Covid-19. Gauteng is a ticking time bomb.”

The hospital environment is scary for her this time around.

“Health-care workers are testing positive every day. That is making the anxiety shoot through the roof. The question ‘what if the maternity ward gets contaminated’  keeps racing through my head. It's been hard and difficult. The worst part is that there isn't any information yet that I can find on Covid-19 and babies, the risk and all that,” Zama said.

“We are a praying family.  All we can do is to pray that the next 100 days with a baby and other young children, we will be safe,” she said.

The last 100 days have been tough for Zama Sithole, owner of Bequest Brides in Northriding, Johannesburg.

The lockdown was imposed as she was gearing up for a busy wedding month.

“April is a big month for weddings. It’s a big month for a lot of things because of Easter. Many of our brides were due to pay their balances for their dresses, but the lockdown was put in place and some wanted refunds," she said.         

Zama Sithole says some brides have asked for refunds while others are not sure when they will tie the knot as the pandemic continues to rage across South Africa.
Zama Sithole says some brides have asked for refunds while others are not sure when they will tie the knot as the pandemic continues to rage across South Africa.
Image: Supplied

     

Wedding dates became an uncertainty, and some feared losing their jobs.

"Unfortunately, we can’t refund them but we allowed them to reschedule, even until 2021 or  2022.”

Sithole said with the economy looking bleak, weddings were not high on the list of people’s priorities, especially because of retrenchments and salary cuts.

She said 100  days ago, she never predicted where she has now found herself.

“When it started, it looked like we would survive because of all the promises of funding by government, but all that was a dream,” she said, adding that funding did not necessarily reach those who needed it.

“It’s been painful for small businesses, to the point where we are considering shutting down until the storm is over. We had been hopeful  the storm would be over by September but, this is unpredictable so the next 100 days are uncertain,” she said. 

Sithole's boutique has been open since June 1 and while people are returning, things are not back to normal.

"We have seen about 35 clients but only five have committed and made payments. Others are saying time will tell . They don't know when they will be allowed to have big weddings again. Not everyone wants a wedding with only 50 guests."

Sithole said many in the wedding business were hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“Another thing that makes it tough for us in the wedding industry is that we are in the business of human contact. We dress brides, do their hair, make-up, nails, clothe them. But this thing has to end sometime. If we don’t die of Covid-19, we will die of hunger."

The community health worker, screening people at an informal settlement in the Atteridgeville area.
The community health worker, screening people at an informal settlement in the Atteridgeville area.
Image: Shonisani Tshikalange

A community health worker, who asked not to be identified, screens people around the Atteridgeville area in Gauteng

The 28-year-old said nothing  could prepare one emotionally for the impact of the pandemic.

She said she screens close to 30 people a day. 

"I also have my fears. What makes my day difficult is people the who don't want to be screened and those who give me false information. They sometimes think they are doing me a favour but it's for their health," she said. 

She said being the one screening people and seeing the numbers soar terrified her.

Khumbudzo Mahosana, a public servant and  mother, said there was little to look forward to for the rest of this year.

The 34-year-old had hoped the academic year would be postponed until 2021.

"I am not happy. It is better for us to leave the academic year. It's not safe for our children to go back to school. I think we should wait for this year to end and start over next year," she said.

Mahosana took a decision, based on safety concerns, to send her daughter to Limpopo to live with her grandmother.

"It was dangerous for her to be in Gauteng as she is young and we would have been exposing her and making her vulnerable. Her father works at a hospital and comes into contact with many people. I also come into contact with many people," she said. I had to take my child back home because there she can sit indoors and there is no visiting. I had to take her there for her safety. Here there is no space. We had had to protect our little girl," she said.

"I think next year things will be better. I think we are now in shock and just doing things with our own understanding," she said.

She spoke of the stress related to being a mother and public servant during this time, waking up every day to meet different people. She said it was scary at times knowing that the coronavirus is still spreading.

"It is scary to work. How do you sanitise paperwork? We are also losing jobs as people are not using services," she said.

Jared Monyai is despondent about the future.

The unemployed 24-year-old said her spirit was crushed after half the year had passed and she had not found work.

"There is no more hope for 2020. I am job hunting while some are being retrenched. If the numbers keeps rising we are not sure if they will say another lockdown is coming. I have run out of money for food. The lockdown was good for our protection but it was also bad because our lives are stuck as young people," he said.

Monyai fears the inevitable in the coming weeks Covid-19 spreads.

"I don't think much will change for the year. The virus is not at a stand still. We don't know what is going to happen in the coming weeks. It is tough. We live in fear every day," he said.


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