WATCH: Community patrollers determined to keep Soweto shoppers safe from Covid 19
But before any shopper steps foot inside, they are checked to see if they're wearing masks and are given a generous amount of hand sanitiser.
“Today’s going to be a very busy day for me,” says community patroller, Masentle Marumo. “It’s not even 10am yet and the lines are incredibly long. I have my work cut out.”
Marumo has been deployed to Jabulani Mall to ensure the safety of mall-goers during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a patroller, Marumo not only ensures shoppers are safe from criminals, but that mall visitors adhere to physical distancing rules and wear masks. She also assists the elderly and people with disabilities.
The Gauteng Department of Community Safety has deployed more than 3000 community patrollers during the level 4 lockdown.
Marumo, who joined the community patroller’s programme in 2011, spends half the day at Jabulani Mall and the other half helping the homeless at a Mayfair shelter.
At Jabulani Mall, she walks up to each individual in the queue and explains the importance of keeping the requisite distance from other shoppers.
“It’s important to let every person know how serious this virus is, and that following the rules are crucial to their health and that of their families.
“We have many shoppers who aren’t really aware of this virus or who don’t believe that it is dangerous. It’s my job to educate them and let them know just how serious it all is.”
After ensuring that everyone is maintaining the appropriate distance, and having made sure other patrollers are doing their jobs, Marumo heads off for a walk through the mall.
She stops a handful of mall-goers who have dropped their masks while browsing and makes sure they immediately put them back on.
“Many people don’t take this virus as seriously as it should be taken. You cannot drop your guard for a second. Wearing masks at all times and ensuring distancing will benefit their own health, and they need to know this.”
Rarely do shoppers give her a hard time.
“You have to have a lot of patience when doing this job, especially with the elderly. They are not fully aware of the risks and dangers this virus poses I have always been a people’s person and I enjoy interacting with people, so I don’t mind it one bit.”
Marumo also has to ensure that every store in the mall is following proper safety protocols.
"So far, everyone has been good and has been following the rules.”
Interacting with thousands of shoppers each day puts her own health at risk.
Marumo says she fears contracting the virus, but refuses to let the fear prevent her from doing her job.
“I always ensure that I have my mask on at all times, I sanitise regularly and I follow all the necessary safety precautions. When I come in to work each day I try to be as positive as possible.
“My aim is to make sure everyone is safe in the mall. I have a responsibility, a really big one, and I don’t let anything distract me from the job.
“I wake up every morning excited to go to work. I feel proud that I am in some way able to contribute to ensuring that people in my hometown are kept safe.”
After making several rounds through the mall, it is time for Marumo to catch a taxi to Mayfair where she will start her shift at the homeless shelter.
“It’s been such a blessing working with the homeless in Johannesburg. Part of my job is ensuring that there is social distancing at the shelter, as well as making sure the inside of the centre is cleaned at all times and everyone is sanitised.
“I help with the security at the centre and ensure that those homeless who do not have a shelter during this time are taken off the streets,” she says.
“When I get into bed each night I can barely keep my eyes open. But I go to bed with a happy heart, knowing that I have done my part in making South Africa a little safer.”
The department has praised the community patrollers.
“The job that these patrollers are doing during the pandemic is very important,” said spokesperson Hlulani Mashaba.
“It’s so vital that we manage social distancing because if we do not, our people will be infected. The patrollers have done an amazing job to ensure social distancing in places like malls.
“We hope and believe we can flatten the curve, and at the moment, I think we are winning that battle.”
The department, he says, has provided all the necessary “ammunition” for the patrollers to protect themselves.
“Before they were deployed, the patrollers were screened and tested for Covid-19 and given the tools of the trade, such as sanitisers and face cloth masks, to ensure their safety.”