On 23rd April, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would begin ‘a deliberate and cautious approach to the easing of current lockdown restrictions.’
Following this news, we asked our Lockdown Diarists: ‘What is your understanding of how the new lockdown rules (starting on 1 May) will affect you and your family?’
Tentative Support but Incomplete Information
Many diarists expressed some support for the change to Lockdown rules but they were still unclear about precisely what changes would occur on 1 May. They hoped that shifting regulations might make everyday life a little more tenable for Cape Town’s poorest residents and provide everyone with greater opportunities for exercise outdoors. However, as we will see below, uncertainties and worries remained.
“Well I won’t lie and say I get these new rules but they are better than a total lockdown. Yes a lot of things like not driving without a permit may be still in place but I am hoping for the better. And we can only wait and see what and how these rules will be implemented when the time comes” – Ash, Delft
“My understanding is that there will be small changes – we will be allowed to exercise, hike etc., but not in groups; some shopping beyond just food (hopefully wine!); restaurants will be able to deliver; and some workplaces will open. However there will still be strict rules ensuring social distance. I’m looking forward to getting out into the mountain! Nothing substantial will shift however until they reopen schools … I’m not sure if that’s going to happen or not” – Audioman, Newlands
Work Still Out of Reach For the Most Vulnerable
Although the shifts in the lockdown were welcomed, many residents in townships and informal settlements felt that work opportunities remained out of reach. Therefore, news of the new grants was welcomed, although some residents were worried about how this would be administered in practice.
“It does not affect us from the townships because the issue here is the loss of income from many families. The majority will still go hungry. The economic activities will make a difference for few people but it will not be sufficient to reach the people that they are supposed to. There will still be all these corrupt officials in our communities. For me and my community, it won’t make much of a difference.” – Esethu, Khayelitsha
“To me not much has changed only a few will go back to work.” – Jazzy D, Woodstock Occupation
“I don’t know if I will be one who is going to go back to work, also my son is still looking for the job so now I don’t think there will be time to look for work” – Mavis, Block Six, Philippi
“My family is very grateful that the social grant has been increased because not everyone got food parcels and we were worried that we would never get it, so it will be much better now that we can get the grant” – Ash, Delft
Fear for the Future
Despite the hardships of lockdown and a broad endorsement of government decision making around the crisis, many participants still felt that containing the virus was important and worried about the impact that easing current restrictions would have on the virus’ spread. Fears were particularly acute in townships and informal settlements were Lockdown regulations were already not being observed. Ultimately, it seemed, both citizens and the state were ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ in the words of Bonga, from Khayelitsha. In many ways, there were no easy answers.
“Depending on the level we will also be allowed limited movement and purchases of goods. It’s a good idea, but how will this leniency protect us from spreading the virus if it is not totally gone?” – Warren, Hangberg
“I am feeling skeptical about level 4 being implemented, I feel like it is too early. The community is already not abiding by the regulations, children are playing ball games and people are up and down in the streets… Taxi’s moving around will increase the number of people moving which will cause the spread again. The Western Cape [infection rate] is increasing rapidly instead of decreasing and the death toll is also increasing. I understand that the economy needs to start working again and the Rand has depleted but I think our safety is more important” – Assie, Khayelitsha
My family and I we will adhere to the level 5 rules even after 1 May as I believe it is still too risky going out for non-essentials, especially here in the Western Cape where the cases of COVI 19 are increasing rapidly – Thando, Khayelitsha
- How best can the government communicate new guidance to provide clarity as the rules evolve and become more complex?
- What does the spike of infections in Cape Town tell us about the governance of the crisis? What lessons might be learned from other provinces moving forward?
- How do can official communications balance the need to reassure the population with the need to maintain restrictions on everyday life as the crisis continues?
- What feedback loops can be created at a local level to identify and tackle emerging issues in the issuing of new grants?