LOOK: How Johannesburg coped with the first day of the national lockdown

By Sheree Bega, Sameer Naik And ShaunSmillie Time of article published Mar 28, 2020

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A lockdown with “no thinking”. That’s how Thandasizwe Jonas described the national stay-at-home order that was supposed to confine him and his wife to their small, cramped shack.

Jonas had gathered in a large group with his wife, sisters and neighbours on a bustling street in Ramaphosa informal settlement in Germiston.

“How are we supposed to stay in our shacks and not leave for 21 days?” he asked. “This is a lockdown for the people in the suburbs, not for the poor people. I have never even seen the inside of a plane, but I must suffer because people are travelling.”

“The people in the suburbs have gardens, bathrooms, their cupboards and fridges are full,” said his wife, Lily.

“They have cars - it’s easy for them to lockdown. For us, it’s no work, no pay. We share one filthy toilet among hundreds, or thousands, of people,” she said.

Jonas said: “When we want to buy food, we go to the spaza shop there that is now closed. How are we supposed to get food?

“If we go to the shopping complex, we’ll stand in a long queue and everyone will be infected. The government says we must avoid crowds, but they are creating crowds.”

His wife said: “We are all scared of the coronavirus, but there’s nothing we can do, living like this. If it catches us, it’s our time.”

Residents of Ramaphosa informal settlement say the government has not provided them with information about the virus and they have to share one toilet. | NOKUTHULA MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

Across the road, 56-year-old Rosina Managa sat alone under a dusty, wooden structure.

“I don’t want to sit in a group because I know it’s a risk,” she said. “I’m scared of this coronavirus.”

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula singled out Sandton and Bedfordview as the epicentres of Gauteng’s outbreak, highlighting how surrounding areas such as Alexandra and Ramaphosa were cause for concern.

“They don’t bring sanitiser, masks or gloves to us, but instead they will bring soldiers here and we’ll have to ask permission to go use the toilet,” said Sindiswa Maguda.

“They say the lockdown is for our benefit, but we are more in danger living here.”

In Malvern groups of residents were still walking down the suburb’s streets yesterday.

On the M2 heading west past Denver a number of hitch-hikers were defying Gauteng Premier David Makura’s instruction not to leave the province.

Children play in White City, Soweto without masks. | NOKUTHULA MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

The streets of the CBD were deserted, apart from handfuls of shoppers and street cleaners. The majority of homeless people had been moved to temporary shelters. Small Street Mall and Bree Taxi Rank were deserted. Few supermarkets, butcheries and pharmacies had opened their doors.

“We are really happy that shop owners and others have adhered strictly to the lockdown,” said an officer on duty in the CBD. “We were actually surprised to see it so quiet this morning. We expected people to take chances, especially on the first day, but it’s good to see people are taking the lockdown seriously.”

Douglas Samuels, of Riverlea, had no other option but to make his way into the city to appear in court as he was afraid he would be arrested for contempt.

“I managed to get a taxi into town this morning; however I cannot get a taxi back to Riverlea, so I have to walk.“I want to stay indoors and make sure I don’t contaminate anyone, but I was here for a good reason.”

Irene Louw ventured into town to do grocery shopping as she was unable to shop ahead of the lockdown. “Even today I struggled to get many things I needed. The shelves were empty.”

Residents of Ramaphosa informal settlement say the government has not provided them with information about the virus and they have to share one toilet. | NOKUTHULA MBATHA African News Agency (ANA)

She feared walking in public. “We can’t afford masks and sanitisers. What we need is for the government to help the poorest of the poor and to visit townships and hand out masks and sanitisers to all those who can’t afford it otherwise we will never survive this virus.”

In Hillbrow, police were forced to use tear gas to disperse residents who had gathered in groups in the streets of Hillbrow in the early hours of yesterday morning, but a high presence of police and soldiers ensured residents remained in their homes.

Residents could be seen chatting among each other through their apartment windows or over their fences.

The Saturday Star 

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