The plight of street vendors during lockdown

By Nyiko Lovemore Manganyi (YEP CHAMPION 2020)

We did not choose to be born where we are living today.

I was born and raised in Limpopo, Vhembe District, one of the small villages called Shikundu Mountain Rockers- lead by Chief Shikundu. My mother is a self-employed single woman. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very negative impact on my family and I. My mother is a street vendor, we fear that every day when she goes out to the market for work, she might come back infected with the virus, and when her life is in danger we are also in danger. Every day, when she gets ready to leave for the market, I pray that she comes back safely.

Her business is at risk because she doesn’t get as many customers as before. People are afraid of the virus and they no longer trust the products that are sold on the streets. They believe that these products might also be infected by the virus that is threatening the lives of many. These days, people prefer to go to the bigger retail stores for their fruit and vegetables as these are supposed to be checked and tested before they are sold. This means that my mother will not be able to provide for my siblings and me.

Our academic careers have suddenly been put on hold. This causes me a lot of anxiety because this also means that my years of struggle have also been prolonged. This whole situation feels like lost time to me and when time is lost, it is lost forever.

There was a bit of relief when some of my mother’s customers bought her hand sanitizer so that she could help the people who buy from her avoid getting infected. She has since managed to package some of her products and is selling again. The people from my village have come together to encourage young children to continue to read and write so that it will be easier to go back to school when the time comes.
I think that now is the time for all South Africans to take a stand and not rely solely on the government to provide solutions. We need to be conscious and work hand in hand with our leaders in an effort to minimize the spread of this virus.

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