Having lived in South Africa for five years, I understand that I am very privileged to be going through this crisis being in a middle-class family in England. Being less fortunate can make surviving this lockdown far more difficult and even life-threatening. When I lived in South Africa, I lived near a township (or slum) named Diepsloot. In the informal settlement, crime is high, water and electricity access is scarce, and around ten people can live in one shack. This means diseases can spread like wildfire. The population of the township is unknown, but estimates fall around 350,000 according to Diepsloot.com. Diepsloot is a legacy of the harsh segregation of the apartheid era and even today the social and economic segregation still exists. In this crisis, although aid is being given, most families in the townships are struggling even more due to isolation.
The South African government has placed a strict lockdown on its citizens to lower the Covid-19 infection rates. Many families, with the parents working as housekeepers, gardeners or even in the informal sector, will be lacking income during this tough time where they are forced to stay at home. Sky News interviewed the township’s residents who claimed, ‘lockdown will get us before Covid-19’. Themba Miriam told Sky News queue members that line up outside of schools, community centres and charities line up every day as early as 2 am. When asked what she feeds her children, she responded, ‘Nothing. We live in a shack. There are 10 of us in a shack. How can we do the lockdown in a shack?’ Looting and violence have gone up, as the desperation for food exceeds the fear of the virus or compliance with the rules. Amnesty International calls on governments in Southern Africa to provide social grants and funding to the impoverished. Fortunately, charities like Afrika Tikkun are distributing some provisions, but it is difficult with so few resources. The residents of these townships are depending on the government for survival. I believe the government needs to provide more support and prioritize their citizens living hand to mouth and who are cut off from many essential resources. Day by day, many South Africans are losing their trust in their government and many fear they will starve to death.