THE past three days since the #Lockdown, instituted as measures to combatting the CoronaVirus epidemic, have brought home to some of us how privileged we are.
- To Be Poor And Homeless
Often times we use this term loosely. “Im too poor for this and that” we say. But it is during these times when you have a roof over your head, don’t live in a squalor camp, have running water and can afford three-days of food at a go – that you aren’t poor at all. Let’s not even include those selfish people who’ve cleaned out shelves from supermarkets in previously white suburbs.
Every home I’ve had until now, as an adult South African was across from homeless people. I’ve seen how they live, how they struggle and how they ultimately came to rob me and others in my neighbourhood of basics – okay there was a time when they stole my computers every few months. I still don’t believe it was out of sheer malice or profiteering. They needed to make money and I was stupid enough to display openly the computers. We didnt have curtains to the property I used as office premises.
2. Live In A House As Opposed to an Apartment Building Or A Mkhukhu In A Squalor Camp
When you live in luxury, as our ministers and politicians do, you become completely detached from the reality of poverty. For a moment, try as you read this, imagine a person who lives in a shack being quarantined. Their neighbours from all sides of their home are already in their space.
This is a small one-roomed space occupied by many people. Self isolation, self quarantine does not exist.
A very useful video from World Health Organisation (WHO), useful if you have choices, tells us to take walks or jog if our country regulations allow us to. This is a privilege that many in our country don’t have. Walking is a basic means from A to B.
The video tells us if we are not allowed to walk or jog, we must do physical exercise within our homes. It says we must walk up and down stairs. People who live in squalor camps dont have this luxury. A walk out of their door is a violation of “stay at home”, “social distancing”. A walk out of their door for “fresh air” means being face to face with the risk of infection, not just Corona but every disease.
They have no water – they can’t wash their hands.
They have no sanitation which is linked to transmission of diseases.
Open defecation leads to diseases and poverty.
They have no form of lifestyle physical activities.
Taverns and shebeens are their lifestyle.
Fruit and Vegetable Sellers Vs White Monopoly Capital Supermarkets
Fruit and vegetable sellers, largely owned by elderly women in the townships are being closed down. The police are being sent out to close their businesses but the WMC owned supermarkets have been labeled as essential businesses.
Apartment Building Living
Those in apartment buildings have very little choices. They have to use elevators which could be laced with the virus while the building owners do very little to disinfect the place. They are cooped up in small areas and it gets worse for those who share one little apartment subdivided with curtains as “rooms”. In some instances more than 20 people live in an apartment meant for a family of three. There is no self-isolation here. There is no self-quarantine.
Limited Options in Poverty
Those who live in real poverty, unlike some of us, have no options. They can’t stay at home. Home and their environment, is infested with disease. Today it is Corona Virus, yesterday diarrhoea, intestinal worms, and many other diseases. The children can’t go to school due to these diseases. It means staying at home and a continuation of poverty. The chances of promoting self confidence among women and children is abysmal. There’s no escape for them.
Our democratic government has failed to address these ills. “Our people” as they call them have lived in this squalor with very little done for the people except on paper. “Our people” cannot hold them to account in terms of a Constitution they dont even know or understand. “Our People” are at times, convenient to those who have money, spoken for. The tragedy is that when the Constitution speaks and tells those in power to institute the rights of “The People”, they often don’t get the remedy.
In the past two days since the #lockdown we have seen our political leaders praise themselves for the efforts they’ve made in addressing the pandemic which has confirmed that with the will, “The People” can be given the basic human rights they deserve.
There have been loads of tanks of water to informal settlements and the City of Joburg, generally filthy and smelling from stench of filthy water running down the City’s roads and over-filled dustbins, was today, being cleaned.
Even Eskom, which has battled to keep the lights on in the past two years has since the announcement of the national state of disaster managed to provide electricity.
Our ancestors, who lost so much blood for the attainment of this democracy, should be wondering just what it is with our leaders today that it has to take a pandemic of this magnitude, to provide simple rights – water, sanitation, clean spaces – to Their People.