We interviewed an employee from an NGO in South Africa in times of Corona. The date of the interview is the 26th of May, 2020. The whole world is in the middle of a pandemic right now and everything is different from how it used to be. We are curious to how people in South Africa are dealing with the situation and that is why we interviewed some people living there. On the news we are reading a lot of things, but the best information is from the people themselves.

He told us that he is not at the office right now, because the office where he normally works is quite small. Employees cannot keep 1.5 metres distance there. This influences the way we interact with each other. We try to put the focus on what is necessary and what is less necessary and what needs more focus now. Working from home is nice. All the stuff you need is directly at hand but dealing with the distractions that come with it is a con. You can find yourself doing things you are not supposed to be doing. I have a little daughter who also is asking for attention and live in a flat which makes it a bit harder, because you do not really have an office kind of space.

This pandemic has influenced the daily live, we have a lot of time to think of ourselves. Are we happy with where we at or not? Are you going to change things after the crisis? People who wanted to change but were not able to, are now. Now we have time to do self-reflection and ask questions like 'How are we doing?' So, we can come back to work with motivation. We are not that relaxed and sometimes feel attacked, but that has also to do with the mental state of the moment. The restriction of moving which also prevents them from going into the field especially is hard. Stress comes also from an inside struggle that you both want to work, but on the other side you want to have time for yourself too.

Some of the measures the government has taken, just don't make logical sense to me and are a bit odd. Like, if you open the schools which comes with the biggest challenges, why not open all the other sectors apart from tourism? Why are the curriculum advisors who go from school to school to have conversations with the teachers working from home while teachers must stand before a class full of kids where the virus is easily spread?

I think there is a big difference in the social level of this lockdown. In some wealthier communities, people can follow school from home with laptops and Wi-Fi at home while the communities we work in do not have that. The authorities expect the children all to be at the same level when schools are opening again. But this is not possible, because some children can't follow education right now. That is why all operations should be cancelled and should start at the same time so there are no disadvantages and gaps in the education. Most of the time parents do not even have a contact number. There is no way of contacting these kids. My wife and parents are teachers, so I now know how difficult it is to get in contact with the children.

The big cities need more adherence and enforcement of the measures in contrast to small towns which might not have the same imposed measures. In some cases, the live goes on as usual, because there are no registered infected. For example, the deployment of the army is more in the bigger metropolises like Cape Town and Johannesburg. The news that is shown in the west is more a big city situation that does not apply for a big part of the country. You must understand the political game as well. ANC (African national congress) is running South Africa, but interprovincial you have other parties who want to get control of the country. The parties want to make sure for the news to report on stuff that makes the situation look as bad as possible in order to discredit the other. That is why you carefully need to read between the lines what the news really is. Such political games obviously are played all over the world to get the upper hand or get out as heroes.

Obviously, there is a difference between rich and poor communities in South Africa. Most of the people cannot work now, so they are not getting an income. In some instances, it is very bad, but it has been bad for a very long time. The people have built the resources to survive without necessarily going into the criminal circuit. While there is an impact to their lack of income. They have ways of getting income because they have been in that struggle for so long, so the impact is not that big as sometimes suggested.

I think the problem is that we are too much focused on the COVID-19 crisis. Even though people are sad for the people that died 200 deaths do not really shock South Africa as a country. South Africa has a very high death rate, so if the numbers start to rise, thousands of people will start to worry. That is why it does not scare the South Africans that much. They think the death rate even goes down, because not a lot of people are traveling and are on the street. There are not many people shooting and murdering each other, because the gang violence has reduced. With all the crime that has gone down people think the lockdown is stretched out, because the police forces are trying to let everyone experience this period of low crime and minimum action. I think they also should seriously start report on people dying from other diseases like tuberculosis and HIV which are the big ones in this country. 

All of this information is coming from an interview, interviewed on 26 May 2020, retrieved on 1 June 2020.

International Aid & Development - COVID-19
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