When the national lockdown was announced, there appeared to be buy-in from large parts of society, with many people praising President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize and the government for acting swiftly and decisively.
But as 21 days turned into five weeks, and five weeks into 47 days on Wednesday, that positive sentiment appears to be waning.
While Level 4 of the lockdown allows for more movement and economic activity, it’s become more apparent that many citizens from across the board are no longer strictly adhering to the regulations.
News24 travelled around Pretoria, speaking to several people who conceded that they, their friends and family had started breaking regulations, venting their frustrations over the protracted lockdown.
Tshwane CBD and surrounding areas
Driving around the Tshwane CBD, Sunnyside and Arcadia, it was clear the roads were not as busy as they were before the lockdown was enforced on March 26 – but they certainly were busier than they were over 40 days ago.
While the increase in traffic can be attributed to the relaxation of restrictions under Level 4 of the lockdown, with more businesses allowed to operate – and more people seeking services from these businesses – the sentiment from many on the streets was that people were just trying to get out as opposed to staying cooped up at home.
This was evident as a number of small groups, no more than three or four people, were spotted socialising in parks and on street corners near informal traders in Sunnyside and Arcadia.
This scenario also played out in Mamelodi.
Driving around in the area, commonly referred to as “Mams”, the increase in movement of people was obvious, compared to two weeks ago.
Many people were walking up and down the streets, and could also be seen socialising on the side of the roads.
A man, who identified himself as Sipho Moloto, who works in the CBD and lives in Mamelodi East, said during the early days of the lockdown, people, for the most part, adhered to the restrictions. But as the government moved to Level 4 on 1 May, people started moving around more frequently.
“People think Level 4 is the same as Level 1. People are moving up and down and they are not going for groceries,” Moloto said.
Moloto said people had started socialising, playing dice and cards.
“Most people are tired of this lockdown issue.”
Two other men, who were spotted socialising, spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity. The one man was standing on the side of the road in Mamelodi East, selling fruit, the other was a friend who decided to visit him.
“People are coming out and not respecting the lockdown,” one man told News24.
Both men said people were moving around and trying to hustle to make money, citing hunger as a primary issue. They also noted that people were socialising more.
“I want Level 1; I want to work, pay rent and buy food.”
Another man, in Mamelodi, who also did not want to be named, conceded that he was out socialising with friends, but said many people had left their home looking for food.
He also said people were mainly trying to get money to buy food because the lockdown had left people without the means to fend for themselves.
He said people were clearly unhappy with the lockdown, and they weren’t worried about breaking the regulations.
The substantial increase of traffic in Pretoria East, with people moving around at shopping centres and malls, had been evident since the beginning of the month.
While people in Pretoria East were not socialising on street corners, many admitted to breaking lockdown regulations by paying social visits to friends and family.
One man, who asked not to be named, said he believed that things should have improved under Level 4, but things got more “reckless”.
“It feels like more people are taking chances. If I had to leave the house and didn’t know it was lockdown, I wouldn’t know by the look of how busy the roads are. You can’t tell me that all the vehicles on the road are for essential goods, it’s impossible,” he said.
“Everyone I know has been somewhere for a visit, for a catch up or a couple of beers.”
“People are gatvol, they are going to take chances. They are going to do what they want because they now feel that it’s Level 4.”
He said he had visited family, in contravention of the lockdown regulations, but that many of his friends had been frequently visiting each other.
Another person also conceded to visiting friends and having friends over once Level 4 was announced.
Followed the rules
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the man told News24 that he had friends over on at least three different occasions for braais.
He was aware that he was breaking the regulations, but he defended his actions by saying he was prepared for the initial lockdown and followed the rules. When the lockdown was extended in mid-April, he continued to adhere to the regulations.
But when Level 4 was introduced, he felt lied to and no longer believed what the government was asking of him.
“When we came to Level 5, all of us could abide by the laws, most only left to go shopping; now when it comes to Level 4, it feels like it’s being taken too far,” he said.
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He added that people listened to the government and heeded their calls for the lockdown in the beginning, but the continued extension of the lockdown left people frustrated and unwilling to comply.
Of all the people News24 interviewed, only Moloto and one other person said they had adhered to the regulations since the outset of the lockdown.
The second person, who asked not to be named, believed the lockdown had been beneficial, and he would continue to follow the regulations.
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However, he also conceded that his friends had been moving around freely and visiting one another.
He was also the only interviewee who believed the lockdown should continue.
This situation in Pretoria is not unique to the capital, with similar reports coming from parts of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban – across inner cities, townships and affluent suburbs.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to brief the nation at 20:30 on Wednesday.