Covid-19

Soweto suburbs are worlds apart as life changes under lockdown

05 April 2020 - 00:00 By BELINDA PHETO
David Phokoje, 73, says he doesn't want to leave home in case he misses a virus test.
David Phokoje, 73, says he doesn't want to leave home in case he misses a virus test.
Image: Marco Longari/AFP

You could hear a pin drop on the streets of the affluent Phase 3 in Soweto's Diepkloof Extension this week as residents stayed holed up comfortably behind their walls.

Barely a kilometre away, in Diepkloof's Zone 6, the situation was very different. Sizakele Vilakazi, 57, who shares a modest home with her four daughters and 10 grandchildren, said that with no yard to play in, the kids end up playing in the streets with other children who also have no other form of entertainment at home.

“They like playing soccer and, as you can see, there is no space in my yard.”

Back in Phase 3, resident Gladys Mathonsi, 53, said she was worried that some people were disregarding the lockdown rules.

“The infections were coming at an alarming rate and I'm glad government came with the lockdown at this time,” she said.

Mathonsi, an official in the international relations department, said she had to be stern with her sons, aged 18 and 20.

“They still wanted to carry on with their lives as usual; they wanted to hang out with their friends on the streets and I told them that would not happen. I even had to show them pictures of caskets with dead bodies from Italy and told them that our government doesn't want us to get to that level.

“They don't have a reason to be out on the streets, they have everything they need right here at home. There's food, internet, DStv and just about anything they need to keep them busy.”

The lockdown has hurt self-employed Nicholas Sibiya in the pocket.
The lockdown has hurt self-employed Nicholas Sibiya in the pocket.
Image: Marco Longari/AFP

Mathonsi said she had set daily tasks for herself. “So far it's going well. I'm meeting all my targets.”

Mathonsi's daughter, Katekani, 29, a lawyer, said she had also not left her home since the lockdown. She dedicates between an hour and two hours every day to teaching her daughter, Letlhogonolo, 5, and her niece, Musa Mashamba, 9, so they don't fall behind with their schoolwork. She says once the lockdown is lifted, the first thing she'll do is visit the park with her daughter.

Sthembiso Mhlungu and Sifiso Radebe say staying indoors 'would drive us crazy'.
Sthembiso Mhlungu and Sifiso Radebe say staying indoors 'would drive us crazy'.
Image: Marco Longari/AFP

But in Zone 6 not even the rain kept people indoors. The streets were busy, with children playing, cars and taxis driving by and people hanging out on street corners.

Nicholas Sibiya, 48, chose to stay indoors even though life is not comfortable in the one-roomed shack he is renting in a backyard. Sibiya is self-employed and the lockdown is hurting his pocket, but he is not prepared to break the law.

“I bought groceries last week before the lockdown and I've not set my foot out of this yard since,” he told the Sunday Times.

David Phokoje, 73, said he only went to the shop to buy bread. “I heard on the radio that government will be sending doctors to our homes to test us for this virus. I don't know when they will come but I want to be home when they come.”

Sifiso Radebe, 21, and Sthembiso Mhlungu, 22, said staying indoors “would drive us crazy”. Radebe transports children to school. “They are not saying anything about the reopening date and this is a concern for me because already some parents didn't pay us because schools closed earlier.”


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