Coronavirus News Africa

Life under lockdown: How SA is moving on

This week marks more than 11 weeks since South Africa embarked on a nationwide lockdown to slow down the spread of Covid-19, and help health authorities prepare. 

However, as the lockdown continued, South Africa’s willingness to adhere to lockdown regulations declined, with many buying cigarettes or visiting friends or families, and hosting braais against lockdown regulations. 

READ | Ramaphosa concerned over ‘surge’ in violence during Level 3

News24 spoke to South Africans across to the country to see how they have been moving on with life since the lockdown started. 

Names have in some instances been changed to protect the identities of those interviewed. 

Claire, private school teacher, Cape Town 

Work in lockdown Level 3 has been like redoing my teaching degree. Every teaching method has gone out of the window and I have had to almost overnight learn a new set of skills. But it’s been great to see students’ faces and have a purpose to my day. In terms of the lockdown rules, I am not too bothered. I am exposing myself to almost 300 students a week – a braai with friends isn’t going to make much of a difference? 

I’ve been staying with my dad during the lockdown as the university is closed, and my parents are divorced so it sucks to not be able to see my mom, so I have been going to visit her once a week since the start of the lockdown. And, I am planning to go to my friend for his birthday on the farm, because I cannot allow him to celebrate it alone. And that’s it. Oh I also went to see a friend to go drop clothes for a charity, where I hugged her, but left soon after – I was just so desperate for human connection.

Madhuri, 25, master in psychology, Morningside, Durban

James, 38, copywriter, Greenside, Johannesburg 

I have been really good with the lockdown regulations, mostly. But my hair has been bugging me, so I had an anonymous hairdresser cut my hair. It was so secretive. I got the number from a close friend after I asked on a WhatsApp group where I could get  the hair cut. The hairdresser messaged me back quickly asking for my location, telling me to prepare a spot outside, and he came to cut my hair within about 20 minutes, with a mask and hand gloves. We didn’t really talk – and I had to drop the money into a plastic bag, so that he doesn’t have to touch it – R320 for a haircut. 

Lockdown has been really rough for me, and I have been sad a lot so I have been visiting my family a few times. I have been trying my best to follow the rules most of the time, but I have been having suppers socially often. I’ve also been sleeping over at my partner’s place because I haven’t seen him in ages.

Billy, 27, doctor, La Lucia, Durban

Bevan, 38, editor, Cape Town 

Considering what I do for a living, and constantly keeping up-to-date with research and the latest science, I’m probably overly cautious. Add to that the fact that I am a type-2 diabetic – albeit that my diabetes is well controlled – being careful just makes sense to me. So, while we may have shifted to Level 3, I am still very much stuck in a Level 5 mindset. I can’t rely on others to look after my health, it’s my responsibility, so while I am more than limiting movements – I haven’t left the house since before lockdown started. It’s purely a case of short-term “losses” versus the long-term benefits, and for me it’s a small sacrifice. 

I am a very sociable person and a sense of community is important to me so I have been visiting friends at their houses definitely more than twice a week. I would also often do social walks with friends without having our masks on, and go up into the mountain to have coffee. It’s so busy in the mountains – everybody is there. Some with masks, some without and everyone socialising. Today I went with a friend to go buy fish and chips and sit at the harbour and enjoyed each other’s company. My social life is basically back to normal.

Kimberley, 27, community worker, Stellenbosch Central

Pupils return to school after Grey College reopens during the lockdown.

Michelle, 25, Business analyst, Morningside, Johannesburg 

I went to the hairdresser the first time this week, because my hair was stressing me out. I had to get my wig treated. I just asked my regular hairdresser if she is still open and she said yes, but that I have to come before 4 o’clock so that the police cannot see the light. And I also went on a hike this morning with colleagues and it was park-run vibes, with people dancing, and no one was wearing masks. I am probably going to see more people going forward because we need to start experiencing normality, it’s starting to affect my mental health and it’s not okay. 

In Samora Machel, people are moving around and visiting people as normal. Thankfully most people are now wearing masks and large gatherings don’t really happen, but other than that people knock on my door regularly for a cup of coffee. A lockdown just isn’t possible in a township where people live in small houses with six people in one room. Cigarettes are sold on every street corner, and people have been drinking Umhlonyana (traditional medicine) thinking it will protect them from the coronavirus.

Mzikayise, 40, community worker, Samora Machel, Cape Town

Maxine, 33, writer, Eldorado Park, Johannesburg 

When my stock of cigarettes started going empty two weeks into the lockdown, I just drove to the garage to go buy cigarettes and the petrol attendant quickly brought it, and thereafter I started buying at the local shop. I visit my parents and sisters regularly, but we try to keep social distance. My boyfriend also visits often, and I go to the shops with him. I am very paranoid so I don’t think I’ll break any more rules, but the only rule I will continue to break is the cigarettes.

Angelo, high school teacher, Cape Town 

This new relaxed level has pushed my anxiety levels up. On the eve of school reopening this week, I needed to head out for a few hours with my wife. She hasn’t been out since she gave birth in February. The uncertainty is what bothers me the most: are kids and families being safe? How much safer can I be, who do I offend with my stance around Covid-19 and lockdown protocol? Am I supposed to care about the feelings of other people when protecting myself and my family with my behaviour? I stay at home as much as possible, I do our shopping every two weeks and exercise on my own. I’m grateful that we’ve been granted a bigger window period for exercise because that’s my coping mechanism. I fear cabin fever may creep in should we go back to Level 4 or 5.

I have been breaking the law every week. I have been smoking, I have been jolling, I have been doing it all. The cigarettes have been difficult to find, and very expensive, but most spaza shops and garages have them. We have been having a lot of braais, dinners. Today I am at a birthday party with 15 people.

Michelle, 30, University lecturer, Melville, Johannesburg

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 09: A woman wearing

A woman wearing a face shield seen running at the promenade in Sea Point in Cape Town.

Rehana, occupational therapist, Cape Town 

Level 3, in my opinion, feels as though we are no longer in lockdown. Roads are flooded with cars again and malls are saturated with people. Might I add, people are not adhering to the safety regulations, especially not wearing the face masks appropriately. When I am out – and I see people not adhering to the regulations – I make it a point to politely remind and educate them on it, such as how to wear a mask. I feel that it is everyone’s responsibility to care for the next as they would want to be cared for. I feel Level 3 has got people acting as if the ban has been lifted and this scares me. It also has me wanting to remain more indoors than ever and leave only for essential purposes.

I make use of my mask, but I wouldn’t say I have been very adherent to the lockdown regulations. I work secretly at the office, and have been buying cigarettes from the local Pakistani. And yes, I have friends over regularly for coffee, because from time to time you have to see people. I also drove to the coast last week for a chance to get away. I am not trying to rebel, it is just difficult working from home and I just want to return back to normality, sanity.

Petronella, 50, manager, Ceres

Ethan, 28, student, Parktown, Johannesburg 

I haven’t been smoking, I haven’t been drinking, but I have had individuals over for coffee regularly. Always one person – never two, but the need to see someone grew too much. I’m alone in Johannesburg, with no family, what I am supposed to do? We have to adapt to a new reality, we have to find a workable solution. 

I stay home as much as I can. However, I do go out because I have things to do. I also visit my friends who I know are mostly home. I am a very social person and when I am at work I used to be in my safe space, so this lockdown has been very hard for me. It is very up and down. I even thought I was going through depression at one stage. I miss my life but needed to accept that I have a new life now. I do what I need to, to be safe. It’s a very different world out there and you need to adapt.

Rukshana, flight attendant, Cape Town


A woman peruses a museum in Europe after lockdown restrictions ease.

Aadillah, 29, writer, Sea Point, Cape Town

After two months, I had to go see my boyfriend and his dog in the park. We had to meet in the park because we didn’t want to infect his parents or put his family at risk. It was difficult not to touch, so we just locked arms because at least there’s clothing to cover our skin. But we didn’t kiss, because we were wearing masks. I will probably break the rules again to see him because it is not normal for people to be away from each other this long.

So from the lockdown I have been running outside in my gated community, and not adhering to the lockdown exercise window. People have been telling me that I am putting lives in danger, but I stay with family and exercise is important. Also, I’ve been seeing my friends because we are working on a business idea, but it’s mostly social: listening to music and chilling and stuff.

Tshego, 27, accountant, Fourways, Johannesburg

Kelly, 29, editor, Cape Town CBD 

I have seen my mom occasionally. Sometimes she will park outside my house, and I would stand on the other side of the road and talk for about 10 to 15 minutes. I just have this insane fear that I have the virus, I do not want to be the person who gives it to my mother. I have seen my best friend once for about an hour or so. We just chatted. I haven’t had a hug from someone since the lockdown started. I just miss human connection. Just really want a hug. And I really just want to find a romantic connection. My plans for 2020 was to meet someone and those have just gone to sh*t.

I have been visiting friends, I don’t have family in Gauteng, so I really rely on friendship circles. I’ve slept at friends’ during the lockdown. I always evaluate the person I am seeing before going, making sure that I avoid house families and older people. It is not sustainable not seeing people, we are social creatures.

Julia, 27, administrator, Benoni

Joey, 33, banker, Norwood, Johannesburg 

I have been randomly agreeing to meet up for coffee now and again, and even under Level 5, I travelled to visit my parents because I preferred to do the shopping for them. Recently, I have been going for runs in small groups with my local gym, with people that I trust and know. 

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