'I fear being a vagrant than virus'

Jeanne Butoyi, who is originally from Burundi is a hairdresser, and she said she has not been able to work works since the lockdown started.
Jeanne Butoyi, who is originally from Burundi is a hairdresser, and she said she has not been able to work works since the lockdown started.
Image: 123RF/vystekphotographie.

"As a self-employed refugee, I live from hand-to-mouth. If we don't work we won't have anything to eat," said Jeanne Butoyi, a permanent resident who has been living in SA for 22 years.

Originally from Burundi, Butoyi works as a hairdresser and lives with her husband and two children. She is surviving with help from family friends.

"Debt is piling up and even if the lockdown is lifted today, I don't know how I am going to make up all the money I now owe," said Butoyi.

She said even though evictions were now prohibited, becoming homeless was her biggest fear.

"Yes, I am afraid of getting infected, but I am more afraid of becoming homeless and losing my place of work, which I also rent," she said.

Full-time student Rahma Nahimana shared Butoyi's sentiments.

She told Sowetan's sister publication TimesLIVE her fear of becoming homeless was greater than her fear of contracting Covid-19, mainly because the landlord from whom her family rents is solely dependent on the rent for income. "It is really difficult as a foreigner."

After receiving help this month in the form of food from a local organisation, she said she didn't know where help will come from next month.

Shani Kanjirembo from DR Congo said the pandemic has affected her emotionally, physically and mentally.

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