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Covid-19 lockdown in Cape Town

Covid-19 lockdown - Bo Kaap
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This is a guest article by Dee Watson from Cape Town / South Africa.
Dee, or as she prefers simply D, accompanied our afternoon classes as our teacher during our short educational leave in Cape Town in December 2019. Besides her work as a teacher, she was also keen to introduce the students to the culture and country she lives in, including special places she has discovered. In this article she writes about the situation in South Africa and especially in Cape Town during the current Corona Crisis, but also her very personal view of things. Many thanks for this Dee.

Many of us are looking at this period of lockdown as a time of incubation. A time in which something good can grow and develop. A time of rest and quietness. A time of reflection on what is truly important in life and a chance to go deeper spiritually. Many are finding a source of peace to replace fear. Things that occupy much of our lives have been stripped away and simple pleasures remain. Watching the sunbirds drink from the protea, making the most of the perfect weather for a fish braai! Fixing things around the house.  Connecting with family and friends via Zoom and WhatsApp. 


Living with the lockdown

We are taking heed of what our President says and are staying home. No walks, hikes or going to the beach – and no alcohol or cigarette sales! I have only ventured out once to get provisions. Mostly silent, we queue for an hour to get into the local shop, all of us standing the correct distance from each other, wearing masks and gloves. A friendly worker sprays sanitiser on our hands, his smile contagious  behind his plastic visor which has heart-shaped condensation from his breath.

Inside the shop, there is an undeniable feeling of tension though, as people shop as quickly as possible, trying to adhere to the constant call over the loudspeakers, “Don’t touch your face! Keep your distance” and one that I realise is just as important, don’t touch your phone! Most goods are available, but many are counting the cost and only buying essentials.

My main concern is how will I continue to support my precious ‘family’ in Hanover Park and in Retreat – the less affluent areas where one family shares one room?  Not blood family but family none the less, with love forged over many years of sharing each other’s lives. I miss them. However, with ‘no work, no pay’ being my reality as well as many in the tourism industry, they, too, will feel the effect. God will provide, we reassure each other.

One wonderful thing happens every evening at 8pm, a neighbour plays a catchy song at loudest volume, the signal for all of us to come out of our isolation and dance in our gardens, waving torches around and greeting each other with real love and care. We clap for the essential workers. We are so grateful for each other’s presence. Last night we shared delight at the sight of the huge pink moon in the inky-black African sky.  I hope we keep this bond of togetherness, long after the lockdown.

A real positive is the rising respect we have for our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the health minister, Zweli Mkhize, who are acting with decisiveness and integrity, making bold attempts to slow down the spread of Covid-19. We realise the seriousness of our struggling economy and the necessary decisions that they are making will doubtless have a negative impact on the Gross Domestic Product in the next year. However, the feeling of standing united behind Ramaphosa is very powerful. We’re proud of him. This gives me hope for South Africa’s future. If we stand together, we will get through this and South Africa will never be the same. So far, The South African Future Trust, established by Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer who donated a billion rand towards it, is already helping many small businesses by providing soft loans and grants. The homeless in Cape Town have had housing provided, the sick are having medicine and food delivered to them via health workers in the poorest areas.

Westlake United Church Trust
Westlake United Church Trust

I know some of these personally and am in awe of the amazing work they are doing. Visit their website and feel free to contribute towards it.

To be sure, this Covid-19 pandemic is creating hardship, but we are seeing something wonderful. Kindness. Care for one another. More equality. It  tastes good. I’m glad to be here in Cape Town and looking forward to opening the doors again for travellers who seek delightful places! 

All photos published with kind permission of Dee Watson.

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