Nosapho Dukada (50) says the extended lockdown period could end her life.
She fears that hunger, and not the Covid-19 coronavirus, will kill her and her family.
The unemployed mother of five daughters said since the lockdown started on March 27 her family had been struggling to cope because she had not earned any money.
Dukada is a car guard at the Circus Triangle Shopping Mall in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape.
She said she was worried that the extension of the lockdown by another two weeks – until the end of the month – would be catastrophic for her and her family.
Because she had not earned anything since last month, she did not have money to buy bread.
As a car guard, she depended on the kindness of the people who parked their cars while shopping in the mall.
She said on a good day, usually at the end of the month, she made at least R150.
On most days, she took home between R50 and R70.
With that, she was able to buy the basics for her family, such as mealiemeal, rice and baking flour.
“We have been staying at home since the lockdown because we respect the law. But things are getting worse for us, especially now that the president has extended the lockdown,” Dukada said.
I realise that the president was forced to extend the lockdown period but, for us, our reality is that we are going to die of hunger before the coronavirus kills us
“The family is dependent on me. As we speak, we have no money to buy electricity. I don’t know what would happen to us if I did not have maize planted in the garden and at the maize fields because that is the only food we are eating these days.
“Our cupboards are empty – the only thing we have is rice, which we eat with cabbage,” she said.
“I realise that the president was forced to extend the lockdown period but, for us, our reality is that we are going to die of hunger before the coronavirus kills us.
“I don’t even know if I’m infected or not [with the virus] as I am sitting here. But the fact that we are not eating is what is going to kill us.”
Dukada said the flour the family had, which they used to bake bread, was almost finished because she had a big family to feed.
When City Press visited Dukada’s home in New Rest in Qokolweni village, near Mthatha, her husband, Mawela (47), had gone to the maize fields to get some mealies for supper.
The 14 members of the family share a two-bedroom house.
Because there are so many in the house, Dukada said it was impossible to maintain social distancing, especially at night because of the sleeping arrangements.
“There is no way of maintaining social distance. As you can see, we are a large family. We are crammed in these two bedrooms and there is nothing we can do about it. We are poor and do not have the luxury of each person having their own bed. We have to share,” she said.
Dukada and Mawela have five daughters and seven grandchildren.
The couple sleeps in the main bedroom with the youngest grandchild, who is two months old.
The rest have to share a bed in the other bedroom, with some of them sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
She said the family was fully aware of the dangers of Covid-19 and they tried to stay at home and wash their hands all the time.
When the City Press team entered the house, we were welcomed by one of the daughters with a homemade hand sanitiser – a mixture of Jik and Dettol, two commonly used household disinfectants.
Dukada said this was all they could afford to make and they were trying their best to ensure they were not exposed to the virus.
Mawela, who is also unemployed, depends on odd jobs which are hard to come by these days because of the lockdown.
The family also depends on child support grants for seven grandchildren.
They have a herd of six cattle and a few chickens.
“The president must do something for people like us – give us [financial] relief. We are battling. We have nothing. As a car guard, I rely on a person giving me R2 if they want. Sometimes they just give you an attitude,” she said.
Dukada said they were acutely aware of the health crisis facing the country and the world, which was why they were abiding by the regulations of the lockdown by staying at home.
She said she had decided not to attend a funeral next door to avoid mingling with a lot of people.
There is no way of maintaining social distance. As you can see, we are a large family. We are crammed in these two bedrooms and there is nothing we can do about it
“We are complying with the regulations. We are not even visiting neighbours. I did not go to the funeral next door because I am afraid of many people … in case I get infected. I cannot take a risk. I cannot afford to get infected when my family depends on me,” she said.
The day we visited Dukada was even more stressful than usual – their asthmatic grandson Lithemba had been rushed to hospital in the early hours of Thursday.
“We called the ambulance at 1am and waited for it until 5am. We then called a local doctor, who nudged them to speed up. They arrived after 5am and took him to the nearby Ngangelizwe Community Health Centre, where he received treatment,” she said.