Binge-watching series and participating in every social-media challenge available has made the lockdown a little more bearable for many South Africans bracing an extended two weeks of self-isolation.
However, it has also proven to be a trying time for some who miss being able to move around freely. Whether it’s as serious as getting work done or simply exchanging hugs with friends, there is much to be learnt from the past weeks spent at home.
We spoke to famed poet and actress Lebo Mashile, sportscaster Thomas Mlambo, author and activist Rosie Motene, rapper and presenter Zulu Mkhathini, as well as singer Bongeziwe Mabandla about what they have learnt about life in lockdown, what they miss the most, and the very first thing they will do when we have finally beat the curve.
What has been under lockdown taught you?
Lebo Mashile: I think the lockdown has exposed systemic problems with governance — with the economy and inequality globally, but also in South Africa as well.
I think it’s interesting that human beings collectively on Earth are facing this challenge but in our individual countries it’s exposing the problems that have existed for a very long time.
But also what I’m finding inspiring is how people are coming together; the way that people are showing compassion to each other. I’m particularly inspired by how are artists continue to innovate and reach our audiences.
Rosie Motene: The first week was quite hectic for me because my phone crashed and my WiFi wasn’t working so it all just taught me to relax and to just breathe. I went into a lot of prayer and a lot of deep thought.
I’ve been doing a lot of writing and reading and just trying to find other areas of work. Also when I’m strong enough I use my voice in the activism space. I’m living in a safe home, but there are many people who might have the same privilege but don’t have the privilege of being safe.
Zulu Mkhathini: this has taught me that life can just change at any moment. You could be planning something else and then something drastic happens, especially when death is involved. I had planned so much for 2020 but because of this, so many things have changed. Things won’t go as planned for me and many other people.
Bongeziwe Mabandla: it’s really made me wonder how we did it before, like dong a billion things in one day. We’ve gotten so busy trying to be superhumans. I never realised how little time I spend at home. But it’s really taught me that I’m going to get out of the lockdown a little more grateful to be alive and to do things like performing at a show.
What do you miss the most?
Lebo: I miss travelling. This is the longest I’ve ever sat in one place in about 15 or 20 years. I’m used to packing a suitcase once or twice a month and going somewhere for work. My entire life has been shut down completely.
Thomas: You’d think you’d miss the big stuff but you actually miss the small interactions with humans: the hug, the handshake, the ability to comfort and be comforted.
That, for me, was a takeaway from this because I’ve been doing the lockdown alone. I also miss things like driving my car. I live very close to a filling station that has a Woolies, and I haven’t driven the car in three weeks. So I miss just starting the car and having a place to go.
Rosie: The one thing that’s really getting to me is that I can’t just go to my mom. And she is in another province.
Zulu: Freedom is the ultimate joy that a human can get, so it’s unfortunate that at this point we can’t have it — especially as a creative. It’s crazy how you can undervalue the little things of being able to just go wherever you want, whenever you want.
Bongeziwe: I miss the freedom and having choices to do things.
What is the first thing you are going to do when you finally come out of lockdown?
Lebo: I’m going to take my children to the park, they’re going to run around and have fun. My children are going stir crazy in the house, they don’t know what to do with themselves.
I don’t blame them because they’ve been home for a month now. I have a nine-year-old and a three-year-old who will be four in June. The nine-year-old kind of understands what’s going on, I can explain it to him and we can have conversations about it, but the youngest one does not understand.
He’s just happy that he doesn’t have to go to school but he keeps asking why we can’t go to the park, why we can’t go to the movies or McDonald’s — he just doesn’t understand.
Thomas: More than anything, I’d like to just travel. Leave and just go somewhere. Bump into someone on purpose and shake the customs official’s hand, just getting that stamp of freedom on my passport.
Rosie: I’d definitely run to my mom. Because, the communication to the villages wasn’t initially clear and she said was telling me it’s just a “Joburg disease”. And I explained to her that it affects everybody and they went on lockdown at home. When soldiers were sent, nobody had been warned but fortunately I had told her that this might happen. Can you imagine waking up one day and there are soldiers outside; you are my mother’s age, you come from the apartheid era, and suddenly you see this? That level of trauma for people who don’t know what’s going on has been my biggest worry.
Zulu: Releasing my music. We’ve been working on my project for the past two years and it was supposed to come out in April. It was my debut album and we had to push that back. As much as a lot of people are releasing music digitally, that is not how we had planned my roll-out so unfortunately we just have to wait until after. I just can’t wait to get on stage and perform.
Bongeziwe: I’m going to meet up with some people that have been on my mind during the lockdown. I really think this lockdown has made people fall in love with relationships and connections.