/Reflections on Lockdown: South Africans around the world speak about their experiences

Reflections on Lockdown: South Africans around the world speak about their experiences

As the Covid-19 pandemic spread its wings globally, governments around the world began implementing lockdowns, forcing everyone to stay home under strict conditions. 

As of Friday, global deaths topped 100 000, with nearly 1.7 million cases. 

Three South Africans spoke to us about their lockdown experience. 


Lockdown in London – Elena D’Ercole

Who would have thought that just nine months into our UK adventure, after moving to London in mid-2018, we would be confined to our homes, just as spring had sprung after a wet and miserable winter?

When the lockdown was imposed here in late March, London went from a bustling, vibrant global city to something resembling a ghost town, with entire High Streets (the life and soul of Britain) shuttered and deserted. And, of course, our lives changed dramatically too.

I was job hunting when the outbreak escalated here. The plan was for me to start working and for my toddler, Luca, to start nursery school here at the same time. Those plans, for now, are on hold. As my husband is what is termed a key worker in the UK, I have been stuck in our small London flat, entertaining a busy little boy. We could no longer go to the park, the library, and weekly activity classes, which were often a saving grace when I needed to keep Luca stimulated.

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Fortunately here, we are allowed out to exercise once a day, so at least Luca gets to ride his push-bike up and down our little cul-de-sac. And on days when my husband is off, I have popped out for a quick run, passing parks where some people were picnicking and children playing in blatant disregard of the lockdown rules. My in-laws were due to travel from South Africa to London to visit over Easter. They had to cancel their trip because of the outbreak and subsequent travel restrictions. It was a trip we were all looking forward to. The hardest part about being away from home is being away from loved ones.

This experience has also made us more homesick than ever. Even though we were not planning a trip to SA, psychologically, we felt cut off from home when travel bans were imposed and airlines cancelled flights. We have also followed the news back home closely, and we have been filled with nationalistic pride at the way South Africa has responded to the crisis, and how citizens have been adhering to the restrictions.

The videos and memes that only South Africans will understand have filled us with nostalgia and have helped keep us connected with our home country. And, like all South Africans, we have been watching the daily figures from home, hoping against hope that our country can contain the spread and cushion the impact. We remain hopeful. 

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                                                 Luca plays outside during the lockdown in London. (Supplied)

Lockdown in Harare – Tayyaba Fakir 

When the official lockdown was instituted on 30 March, many Zimbabweans had already imposed a lockdown upon themselves and their families. They knew what was at stake: their own lives. 

As a South African now living in Zimbabwe for the past 18 years, I am not too sure what the meaning of a lockdown will be for many. The world went crazy buying and stocking up on non-perishables, but some Zimbabweans have been doing that for years (including myself) because they know that the Zim situation is complex due to the economic situation.

The usual daily struggle of either queuing for bread or fuel and sometimes even looking for or needing essentials is almost like a treasure hunt. Prices soar almost weekly and many cannot keep up.

I have been lucky enough to have travelled back to South Africa to visit my family fairly often last year and continuously count my blessings as I was also able to afford to buy toiletries, detergents and groceries to last us at least a minimum of three months.

If my husband does not make enough ecocash (local mobile money) in a day, it means I cannot buy any meat or fresh produce. I have a small home industry but I decided to stop as it is not worth risking going to the shops to restock on basic ingredients.

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This week, our road was deadly quiet. Almost as if it is uninhabited. The suburb we live in is adjacent to the industrial area and is usually abuzz with foot traffic, cyclists and motorists between school, work, shopping or visiting. Not even the vendors are out.

I feel sad. How will they feed their families?

Luckily, my daughter, Zahrah, has school work to keep her going. She has to keep to her regular school timetable with work being sent and submitted via Google classroom.

Statistics are low in Zimbabwe, with only 11 confirmed positive cases and three deaths. The sad reality of the situation is that the government will not cope with this pandemic if the situation worsens.

Rumour has it that the CBD was a bit busier this past week. People probably thought they need to work and earn some money.  As a result, the military police along with the Zimbabwe Republic Police are manning roadblocks and not even allowing people out for essentials. They also impounding cars and telling people to walk home. 

I can only pray for the best outcome for all.

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                                              A street in Harare during the lockdown. (Supplied)

Lockdown in Johannesburg – Reesha Chibba

The last two weeks has been a cocktail of emotions manifesting in the most wondrous of ways.

I have conditioned my mind and my hair a lot and I have realised that the frizz in my life that used to weigh me down before no longer matters. It does not matter what I have in my bank account. Image means nothing these days. No one cares. What matters is the relationships I have.

This anxious season of my life has made me appreciate and value all of my connections. It has made me question some, reflect and dig deep about what is important and what is not.

I have also become creative with my time – so creative in fact that I have started dancing and singing in my loft to keep myself entertained and to feel like I am in a crowd. The roaring clapping at the end of some songs make me feel like Katy Perry.

I will admit I have taken a bow with the remote in my hand and mimed, ‘Thank you … thank you,’ on more than one occasion. I am learning about myself and I legit look sexy when I dance because I filmed myself.

I have also learnt that if I read and cycle indoors at the same time, two hours can pass without me even realising it. I hate not being close to my mother or that I cannot hug and be hugged. But I know in my heart that this time spent with myself will never happen again and I want to grow and fall in love with myself as much as I can indoors.

I have even started a daily lockdown diary on my blog www.ontheboard.co.za just to help me make sense of it all. 

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                                                           Reesha Chibba at home during the lockdown. (Supplied)

– Compiled by Vanessa Banton

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