TOWNSHIP POWDERKEG – South Africa #underthemask

I’m not pre-disposed to fear. But something is waking me, in the small hours, before the dawn chorus. Head working, heart racing, adrenalized and stuck. Like many I am defined by what I ‘do’, despite my efforts to just ‘be’.

 I have coped well so far with my impatience. But like the latter stages of a draining sink the whirl is getting faster, the noise building.

Cairo Moyo originally from Malawi

 In moments of reflection I fear for the countries I am so invested in. At Griot we are receiving reports of violence and unrest, particularly in Africa.

Kenya is saying better the virus than starvation, Malawi’s lockdown was suspended by the courts due to a lack of provision for the poor. East Africa has the additional problem of Locusts in five countries. And from the pressure cooker bubbling in the Townships of Johannesburg, there has been violence and looting.

As I sit is relatively luxurious isolation, with no immediate concerns over food or shelter, I ‘do’ what I can – bring you stories from around the globe, that help contextualise our own experience of #Covid-19.

Today, we speak to Cairo Moyo.

I met her when she was a teenager. She was in her last days of school, growing up in the SOS Children’s Village in Lilongwe, Malawi.

She was among a cohort of young people I worked with to develop a programme that showed Africa to the world through the eyes and ears of its orphans and abandoned children.

Cairo finished that programme and went on to journalism training in Blantyre.

That was over 10 years ago.

Wearing the colours – Cairo now lives in South Africa

She has spent much of the intervening years in South Africa. She writes occasionally for the papers there.

“South Africa confirmed its first corona virus case on March 5,” she told us.

“In the weeks that followed, infections were mostly confined to suburban areas – it was mainly travellers from Europe, United States and other countries.

“As of today (25th of April) there are over four-thousand confirmed cases and 79 deaths of the corona virus in South Africa.”

The number of new infections is increasing daily. Like other countries there is a Government enforced lock-down. This is bringing challenges to many.

“In Johannesburg, a lot of foreign nationals especially the undocumented ones are finding it difficult to earn a living,” said Cairo. “Those without papers have small scale jobs.

This means: no work, no pay,”

A long way from home – Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi

Cairo had spoken to a fellow Malawian, who wanted to remain anonymous.

He told her he was really suffering, in South Africa, at this time. He had no food and none of the essentials of life. He’d said that if he had money he would have gone home.

Cairo says the Government and other agencies seem to be working hard to reach the needy, especially the elderly and those in rural areas.

The Townships of Johannesburg

But the patience and the hunger has burned through in the townships. People are taking matters into their own hands.

There’s been violence and looting as the hungry take matters into their own hands

“As we are waiting for the lockdown to be lifted next week people have resorted in bad practices such as stealing and looting shops to find something for the day,” she said.

“We are in difficult times as a country.

Cairo has hopes for the future of South Africa

“My only hope is everything will get back to normal when lockdown is lifted.

“Although it is not guaranteed for how long it will take to repair the wreckage this pandemic has left in the lives of many people and the nation as a whole.”

 It is hard to tell, so far, just how much damage has been done to the lives of individuals across the world. And I am troubled that the only statistics we see are those of hospital deaths from the virus. It may be a long time before the full extent of its reach will be understood.

HG 26/4/20














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