In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reached South Africa and the country went into a strict lockdown to try and contain the situation. In the following months, a group of University of Pretoria development studies students – themselves forced to leave campus and student residences and try to learn online – wrote about this unprecedented situation. In this short collection we share some of these experiences; some reveal what the students themselves were going through, some capture the stories of others around them. No-one, at the time of writing these, really imagined that a year later we would still be so severely affected by this pandemic. But here we are, all still grappling with many of the same challenges. We hope you find these glimpses of how others have been affected in some way illuminating and perhaps encouraging.
Marc Wegerif and Bontle Modubu – March 2021
University of Pretoria, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.
Understanding The Impact Of COVID-19 On Spaza Shop Owners In Sebokeng Township
The spaza shop owners and informal traders who were interviewed declared that the national lockdown affected them negatively. Mama-kay is one of the spaza shop owners who was interviewed. She is a breadwinner for her family, a single parent to two lovely daughters and one son. She says that: “The President announced the national lockdown after I had bought fresh fruits and vegetables from the market, because of that I was forced by the situation to keep the business running to avoid food getting rotten and my children’s money to go to waste. However, I was caught off-guard by police officers forcing me to close down. I was so stressed, that was the only source of income we have in the household and my other worry is that products like bread, fruits and vegetables that will expire and get rotten, which will result in a major loss to my small business.”
In our black community, COVID-19 has the same stigma as chronic diseases such as HIV & AIDS and TB. Mama-kay explained that,“after the police officers came to my mini garage and stopped me from operating, many people in the community thought that I was stopped because I have signs and symptoms of coronavirus, which was not true. My business was no longer the same, some parents would go to an extent of saying to their children to stop buying. Nevertheless, the business bounced back because my spaza shop is the only one in the neighbourhood and people are avoiding long queues for small things like bread, milk, sugar, fruits and vegetables so they ended up buying from me again”.
Author: Lehlohonolo Motloung
Read the collection in PDBY: next installment 03/05