Following news that South Africa would be moving to Level Three on 1st June, we asked our diarists how they felt about this. The responses below show the mixed emotions that exist across the city: for some this brought a sense of relief but for many, fears still remain.
Relief that some sense of ‘normal’ might return
News that the country was moving to Level Three brought a sense of relief for some diarists; a sense that life could, to some degree, return to normal:
‘Well I’m glad we’re making progress, I mean some things will now go back to normal if not close to normal. We can go back to work and maybe the process of going to buy food won’t be as intense anymore so I do feel great about moving down to level 3.’ – Ash, Delft
‘I feel much better for the progress n the way forwad in people like us because other factories where we buy our stock are going to open for everything that we need to buy n the future of all people’ – Nolwando, Europe
‘I think it’s great – more freedom and normality. I am concerned that the inevitable infection rate is going to spike but that is going to happen in any event. [level 3 will be] Better for economy and the people.’ – Melody, Newlands
Thomas, in the CBD, felt unconflicted about the shift. ‘I don’t think the lockdown is accomplishing anything socially any more,’ he wrote, ‘The purpose of the lockdown was for government to get ahead on testing and tracing.’
Supporting the move but still concerned…
Many of our diarists had mixed feelings about the transition: they were grateful or accepting that the economy was opening again, but worried about the future. From Khayelitsha, Andile wrote, ‘I feel great but scared at the same time’. Similarly, Audioman, in Newlands, reflected, ‘it’s needed but I’m not looking forward to it!’
Although Level Three meant that more people would be able to return to work, Sparrow, in Newlands, reflected that ‘it is going to take years to get the economy buoyant again.‘ Certainly, for diarists in the tourist industry, the future still looked insecure:
‘The longer at takes to open the more risk it’s for me, and remember the likes of hospitality services will take time to recover even if we open, people will take time to gain trust to travel betwen countries and provinces and to use different accommodations.’ Gift, Imizamo Yethu
Fear that the Western Cape was moving too fast
Concern was palpable in the entries of many diarists, who felt that the move to Level Three should be taken on a provincial basis. Although Mavis, from Block Six, felt that the Western Cape’s numbers were higher because more people were being tested, many felt that they were caught in the epicentre of the virus and to open up further now would compound the problem.
‘I disagree with areas such as Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KZN and Gauteng [going to level three] due to the high numbers meaning going into level will mean more contact between people as other companies and businesses will be allowed to operate ‘ – Lwando, Imizamo Yethu
Diarists writing from informal settlements and townships were particularly aware that the burden of this virus would fall on poorer citizens. Some felt that the government’s announcement was a demonstration that their lives were not being valued:
‘The virus is getting worse and the government is still going on level 3, the government is killing us now… Cape town is not suppose to go to level 3 coz it has the highest rate of infection. So the government really don’t care about our health anymore. Am really disappointed with the government ‘ – Nathi, Disa
‘Where are unemployed people going to get the money for medical aid, so you can look after your health and the health of your family. The president has really hit us poor people, but we endure and ask God to protect us.’ – Sam, Imizamo Yethu
‘I feel like president is allowing us to be killed by this covid-19 because he knows that western cape is not ready to be on level3 now we are going to die I am very scared about this.’ Nosiphiwo, Harare
‘Mr President should have said he gives up on saving people lives and fighting corona. South Africa is not ready at all for stage 3.’ – Patsie
Concern that the government was not planning ahead
Concern clustered around the government’s management of two issues. The first issue was education. Kungo, from Shukushukuma, for example, remained worried about the ‘huge risk’ of loosening restrictions in terms of education, as well as other restrictions loosening. ‘I was shocked on the last statement made by President yesterday saying “It is now in your hands” ‘, he wrote.
‘I’m not happy about is that teachers and students have not been tested and screened. So how safe are our kids in that situation. Who guarantees safety of these kids at school or in the school transport or buses?’ – Nonceba, Island
The second issue was alcohol. ‘We can’t buy cigarettes, but we can buy alcohol. Where is the logic in that?’, asked Warren, from Hangberg. Several diarists highlighted concerns that those who had consumed alcohol would be less likely to abide by lockdown restrictions. ‘Who is going to wear Mask, wash hands when [that person] is Drunk’? asked Neziswa, from Shukushukuma. There were also concerns that crime and accidents would escalate with the unbanning of alcohol.
‘People will get drunk and it will be very easy for people to infect others.coz once people get drunk they don’t care it’s easy for them to make mistakes.’ – Nathi, Disa
‘I’m scared, because the number of people who are infected with Corona virus will increase because of alcohol, hospitals are going to be full because of fights that happen in Tarvens.’ – Nolusapho, Khayelitsha
- What measures can the government institute to ensure that the burden of the virus does not fall on the city’s most vulnerable, marginalised and exploited residents?
- What measures might be taken to assess the impact of alcohol sales on people’s safety and well-being? Is there a middle ground between the current ban and normal sales regulations that could respond to people’s concerns?
- How can the government better listen to, and manage, the fears of its citizens?