Reality Bites

South Africa is a pretty lawless place at the best of times. If you don't believe me try driving in to Cape Town one afternoon or pretty much driving around any urban area and pretty soon you'll realise that red lights mean very little, Stop signs are advisory and speed limits are merely suggestions.  It goes further with traffic cops regularly being seen using their cell phones whilst driving, regularly failing to obey the rules of the road and generally setting a very poor example for others to follow, and I'll not get started on the police being used by gangs to transport drugs...

As such it's no real surprise that in the six days of our lockdown the volume of traffic outside our house has gradually increased. On the first day we had maybe a car an hour driving past, today there's a car going past every couple of minutes.  It may well be that each of these journeys are genuine, but even as a non-gambler I would be prepared to wager that the majority of them are unnecessary.  Paula has been out to our local supermarket for our weekly groceries and said that the shopping centre was heaving.

Anyway, after a conversation on Facebook with a friend who lives in Cape Town's biggest township, I got to thinking about the reality of the lockdown for those that don't enjoy the privileges that you and I do. We take a fixed broadband connection for granted (until iPlayer buffers and heckles get raised - guilty m'lud), we're able to budget our finances and stock up on provisions and we have enough space in our homes and gardens to be able to live a semblance of normality.  But what about those that don't have or can't do these things?

My friend I mentioned above was telling me how it was "business as usual" where he lives, in other words the lockdown simply isn't working. Not necessarily because of disobedience, but because of the realities of daily life.  There's the reality of living in cramped conditions where social distancing is a luxury. The reality of having to leave one's home to go to the toilet.  And there's the reality of living hand to mouth.  In such circumstances one isn't thinking about stockpiling loo roll or getting some booze before the bottle stores close.  Rather, one is wondering where the next meal is coming from, especially when the major sources of income are pretty much absent from the scenery.

Closer to home we have our church members weighing heavily on our hearts & minds as we wonder how we can practically support them through this tough time which is only going to get tougher. One of our families has two young girls both of whom have been sent home from school and are now being expected by the Education Department to study at home. But, they have no books (the school won't let them off the premises), they have no reliable internet connection and they have hard working parents who are simply not equipped to home-school their kids.  And whilst our boys are busy with online classes via Zoom & MS Teams, these kids are left floundering.

Another of our members is a young single mum who receives the SASSA grant (R420pcm or £21) as her only means of income, and on that pittance of money needs to feed and clothe herself and her son for the month. She regularly sends out her CV and visits various local employers looking for work, but can no longer do this, and even when she could she had very little joy.

Then there are The Gathering's Soup Kitchen regulars whose only work comes through the informal economy, for these guys that has almost completely dried up and there is no guarantee of an end of it all.

So basically it comes down to two groups of people disobeying the lockdown for two very different reasons. The wealthy folk are bored and often seem to think the rules don't apply to them so they're off doing what they want with little to no regard for others, whilst the poorer folk are just trying to get through each day as best they can which often forces them to break the rules.

Reality is biting in South Africa and it's not pretty.


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