Living in the street

By Mojalefa Mokhosi

The world is faced with the biggest health challenge of the decade, not only does COVID-19 threaten our way of life and ability to socialise but it also threatens our economic stability. South Africa is one of the most economically divided countries, and this seems to have gotten worse since the lockdown started, now that the privileged have gotten their supplies, with access to the internet, Netflixing and chilling, those trying to find food out there are labeled stupid and ignorant. KA2PA HD went to the streets of Bloemfontein asking people how their lives have changed since the Covid-19 pandemic regulations, many homeless people had no idea what we were talking about, street vendors were more worried about how they were going to feed their families if they have to stay at home for 21 days, I got to understand that information distribution is important because the most vulnerable members of our society were the ones without necessary information on how to protect themselves, and to ensure that they survive this pandemic. To me, that is the biggest problem we are faced with in the fight against the spread of Covid-19.

In his speech, President Cyril Ramaphosa pleaded with South Africans to stay at home, during the lockdown he claims government will provide temporary shelter for those that cannot self-quarantine. Institutions of higher learning and the private sector donated their places of accommodation for the duration of the lockdown. In my view, nothing could be more insulting, because this shows the capacity of government to care for the needy but they require a deadly virus first before the can act, it seems the President does not know the circumstances of those he is leading.

For the vast majority of South Africans, 21 days is the difference between bankruptcy and surviving, it is even worse for homeless people that prefer living on the street than in government shelters because of the poor treatment they receive from shelter officials. I concede that with very limited options and the need to act quickly to save lives, mistakes are bound to happen, however, what this lockdown tells us is that even when human life and dignity is at risk, capitalism will prevail, the President paid little or no attention to the needs of the homeless people. What happens after the lockdown to them? These people have to go back to living in the street where their safety will still be compromised, some of them told KA2PA HD that they would rather find ways to survive the pandemic in the street than to taste luxury only for a few days and then have to return to the same dire situation.

If the food parcel strategy used during elections was put into effect the day South Africa announced the state of emergency, we would not have as many people in the streets trying to survive the lockdown, as they will have had supplies and street vendors would have been taken into consideration as well. This lockdown was not properly planned, it did not take into consideration the realities of the majority of black parents who would rather face a deadly virus that to stay at home and watch their kids starve, to them the streets provide more hope for survival than government strategies and promises. For many South Africans living below the poverty line, just a step outside their house could get them a meal, toiletries or even electricity. We live in communities where people do not even know what Covid-19 is.

This fight is for us all, so it is up to each one of us to help each other, the government can only do the bare minimum, South Africans need to work together, take in a homeless person for 21 days, show them love, donate to the solidarity fund, share your essential supplies with those in need, educate your community and most importantly, play your part by staying home.


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