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The Vlei: ‘We are not going to die of the coronavirus here, We are going to die of hunger’

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In the heart of Athlone, a myriad of shacks sits on an open plot of land hidden between the avenues of Belgravia. This informal settlement is known to many as ‘the Vlei’. The Vlei is home to various religions, races and ethnicities. But what binds the residents is their need for sustenance and an income. Most residents in the Vlei depend solely on begging to support their needs thus making the national lockdown and the restriction on movement a living nightmare.

 

For Magdalene Wagener,  it has become more than a challenge to find food during the lockdown.

“My mother of 80-years-old sees to me, my son and my boyfriend. This lockdown is really breaking me. The food is getting up, where are we going to get more? We can’t even go anywhere, we have to just stay where we are and what will happen to our children,” asked Wagener.

There are many like Magdalene that live in the Vlei.

“At the moment we have nothing in our house and as much as it is affecting us, it is affecting the kids. They are hungry, they keep asking for food. They are getting frustrated,” said Shamiega Leech, a mother of three.

Mothers in the Vlei are unsure of what the lockdown and its further extension will mean for their school-going children.

“My son is in grade in four, my daughter is in grade two. The lockdown is affecting them a lot on their school work…their school work is going backwards. What is going to happen them? Are they going to pass at the end of the year or are they going to have to do it over,” questioned Maylene Koopman, a mother of two.

For those who work odd jobs, it is merely impossible to provide for their families.

“Our men are doing daily jobs to put food in on the table and to support us but now they can’t go out. That’s why I am saying, we are not going to die of the coronavirus here, we are going to die of hunger,” stated Ellistine Beyers.

Bryan Wilshire, a now jobless occupant living in the Vlei says to some, the lockdown put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus, seems to be a vacation.

“They partying, they’re drinking, they are not taking this thing [coronavirus] seriously and at the end of the day we all have to worry about our safety but the way they going on, it’s as if they don’t have a care in the world,” claimed Wilshire.

An anonymous occupant holds an opposing view to the president and the implementation of a lockdown in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It doesn’t matter what you do, if the virus gets you, it gets you. It doesn’t matter if you’re locked up or not locked up. There is no way of stopping the virus. How is Ramaphosa going to stop it? With his hands? He can’t stop it,” stated the resident.

As it stands the national health department has conducted 83 663 coronavirus tests. But, Lena Dewee questioned why officials have not come to the aid of occupants in the vlei.

“We still have no idea what is happening out there, nobody tells us anything, nobody informs us, or gives us advice. We would expect that officials come around and test us since we’re under lockdown, we can’t be expected to move around and acquire our own information,” said Dewee.

VOC


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