Ilza Oosthuizen has written a book documenting the first 40 days of Covid-19. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)
Ilza Oosthuizen has written a book documenting the first 40 days of Covid-19. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

‘Covid Petals’ a reminder of how to push forward when odds are against us

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Jan 9, 2021

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Durban – Durban resident Ilza Oosthuizen wrote 107 000 words during the first 40 days of the coronavirus lockdown as she gathered news, locally, nationally and abroad to record history in the making.

At the time, she did not know she would end up publishing a book: Covid-19 Petals, 40 Days of Life Changing Chronicles.

This week, Oosthuizen who is semi-retired but still works in the public relations industry, said: “When President Ramaphosa said there would be a full lockdown for 21 days, I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself.

“I had a laptop and a memory stick. So on March 27, I went to my Engen garage in Morningside and bought the newspaper – and every day after that,” she said.

Besides the Independent on Saturday, Oosthuizen also bought the paper’s sister titles, The Mercury, Daily News and Sunday Tribune, as well as other mainstream and local newspapers.

“I also listened to the radio. I wanted to keep active and I’m very curious, so I read stories out of the newspapers, particularly human interest stories.

“I started writing up anything I read of interest,” she said, adding that the concept of creating a record of historical value for the next generation fell into place as she tracked lockdown life for the first 40 days.

Oosthuizen, who is also a strong supporter of President Cyril Ramaphosa, recorded every speech made by the president from the beginning of lockdown and these are reflected in the book, as are other key ministers in the lockdown such as Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize.

“When the world was scurrying around, our president was reassuring the country and asking us to come together as a nation,” she said.

She also highlighted the many groups in Durban who banded together to help feed the poor and desperate, from the Denis Hurley Centre to the Yusuf Islam Foundation.

The sudden food price hikes during the lockdown also come in for a mention and resulting hunger among communities as a ripple effect (Mr President, please help us … The Mercury April 16).

There are also many stories about ordinary South Africans’ realities of lockdown, such as Thandiswa Ntanga having to walk for an hour and a half from Clermont to the Spar in New Germany to buy food because there were no taxis (Daily News, March 30), to Chelsea Williams from Durban North who was stuck in Doha airport, where her passport was taken away and there was very little food for five days (Sunday Tribune, April 12).

Oosthuizen also included some feel-good moments, such as when the Elangeni and Maharani Hotels lit up Durban’s beachfront with a giant heart (Independent on Saturday, April 18) and lockdown with Lanner falcons in the yacht basin (Independent on Saturday, April 25).

While she also followed news online and spent time on social media, particularly gathering information about the pandemic from a global perspective, Oosthuizen said she kept to mainstream media to avoid “fake news”.

“If it wasn’t for our newspapers and media industry, none of us would have known what was happening. This highlights the importance of the role played by the media and the sterling work by so many journalists during Covid.

’’They went out there from day one of the lockdown, risking their lives to bring all this information back to us,” said Oosthuizen.

She said she had been given permission to use the news stories in her book after contacting the relevant newspaper owners and editors.

“I wrote 107 000 words in those first 40 days and I dedicate the book to our next generation, so that in decades to come, future generations can read about this time in history,” she said.

Hillside Aluminium in Richards Bay assisted her with the costs of publishing the book and in the foreword, vice-president of operations, Calvin Mkhabela, wrote: “The world as we know it is not business as usual. These unprecedented times have indeed called for us to review and reflect on the way we live and work.

“There are so many invaluable lessons that we have learned since the start of lockdown and the most important one is that we need each other. That love, kindness, empathy, compassion and unity can conquer all.

“It’s been heart-warming to see how South Africans have rallied together to support and help each other. That spirit of Ubuntu is what lies at the heart of our nation.

’’We hope this book will be a reminder of how we ought to push forward and hold onto our faith when the odds are stacked against us. That we should continue to look out and care for each other.

“Thank you for taking the time to record this important period in our history and may this book find its way to many homes and teach generations to come,” said Mkhabela.

Covid-19 Petals, which costs R340, is available on Takealot.com, as an e-book on Amazon or alternatively, email [email protected]

Independent on Saturday

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