Back to work: 'It feels like I have to choose if my family will have food or get corona'

As thousands returned to work on Monday, there was increased traffic on several roads in Soweto.
 As thousands returned to work on Monday, there was increased traffic on several roads in Soweto.
Image: Rea Vaya

As thousands of workers returned to work on Monday, there was increased traffic on  several  roads in Soweto, with measures put in place to manage public transport. 

Bus service Rea Vaya took a bold step to allow only commuters with valid permits to enter their stations and buses. This was evident in Thokoza Park, where people were turned back. 

Inside the station, which is normally  packed with hundreds of commuters, it was quiet. 

Fewer commuters could be seen standing several metres apart with face masks on. 

Among them was a Pimville mother of three, employed in the retail sector, who said the return to work after 39 days since the start of the lockdown was bittersweet.

“I am happy that I’ll get a salary and be able to provide for my family, but at the same time, I am scared. More and more people are getting the virus, especially here in Joburg,” Thenjiwe Mahlangu said.

Mahlangu said her children were in the care of her mother. “I heard that old people and young children are the ones most at risk, going to work every day means I am putting them at risk ... It feels like I have to choose if my family will have food or get corona,” she said.   

Joburg’s MMC for transport, Nonhlanhla Makhuba, visited the station to assess if commuters had been adhering to the level 4 lockdown regulations. She said the focus was on social distancing, masks and permits and only essential services workers with permits would be allowed to travel.

At the Bara taxi rank, taxi marshals attempted to encourage social distancing  but some commuters were reluctant to co-operate. 

Passengers could be seen wearing face masks, while those who travelled to Johannesburg CBD were forced to get their hands sanitised before entering the taxis. 

As per regulations, taxis maintained a 70% carrying capacity.  

Treasure Nkanyamba, who is employed as a panel beater, said he was glad to return to work after endless questions from his children.

“The children don’t understand what’s happening; they just want food, sweets as usual. When you try to explain you don’t have money, they ask too many questions,” he said. 

Nkanyamba expressed concern about safety at his workplace, saying it had been a small company, hard hit since the closure.

“Our boss just told us to come back to work today, he said we must buy our own sanitisers and masks ... he did not say anything else. Maybe he’ll let us know when we get to the office."

While many expressed concern about contracting the virus, Nkanyamba said he feared not having food more.

“So what if I’m scared, the children have to eat, my sister. If I get it (coronavirus), I get it,” added Nkanyamba.

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