South Africa: Essentials? How Do You Define That?


There's so much the state could do to make life better during lockdown.

Air? No problem. Water? Until the council shuts it off for non-payment. Food is still on sale but millions live hand-to-mouth in South Africa, and they're not earning.

Every Thursday night, we put our dustbin out for the Friday pick-up. Around 5am, a Lesotho man, Andries, comes past, spreads a plastic sheet on the ground and takes out all the contents, harvesting bottles, cans and anything he can recycle.

Having done the suburb, Andries wheels away his haul in a set of bags mounted on a homemade trolley.

I'm an early riser and, when he comes past, I take him a cup of tea and a bun. We chat and I've come to know he has a wife and three children in Maseru, and shares a shack in Tembisa with four other men. And he has no bank account.

Last Friday, the start of our lockdown, he didn't come. And presumably, he and his roomies are meant to stay indoors at their shack the size of my kitchen.

So how does the government help him? And if the landlord evicts the five men for not paying rent,...

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