Coronavirus risk is going to change many local customs

Fred Khumalo Watching You
Tshepo Mabasa, 33, walks among cars selling hand sanitisers for R20 in Johannesburg in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus. SA had registered 17 cases by yesterday. / Guillem Sartorio/ AFP
Tshepo Mabasa, 33, walks among cars selling hand sanitisers for R20 in Johannesburg in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus. SA had registered 17 cases by yesterday. / Guillem Sartorio/ AFP

I know it is going to sound morbid, but there are some disgusting habits among black South African men which I think the advent of coronavirus is going to put an end to.

You've just lit yourself a cigarette when a friend, sometimes even a stranger, sidles up to you, and asks for a skyf. It doesn't matter if your lips are chapped like old car tyres, the person will readily take the cigarette and start puffing away at it gratefully.

I don't even smoke, but witnessing such scenes makes me wonder: how many men's lips does this person asking for a skyf kiss, almost directly, every day. Taking a skyf from someone amounts to kissing them.

But it gets worse. There's a tendency, especially in townships, where you find men drinking beer straight from the bottle, passing it from lips to lips. They call it ukushaya icilongo.

Whenever I go to ekasi, and people offer to pour my beer into a common vessel so we can all share I have refused. For this I have earned a few insults: ah, uzenza ngcono; ah, just because he's educated; ah, just because he is from the suburbs; and when I'm visiting my folks in KZN, the imprecation becomes: ah, just because he's from Joburg.

I want to hope and believe that with the advent of coronavirus these disgusting habits will come to an end. It's about time.

But there are other more pleasant communal habits that the outbreak might bring an end to. It is quite common for guys to put money together and buy iskobho or smiley and eat the meat from a common tray.

I can see discomfort is going to set in when the guys assign a chap to cut the meat and the appointee suddenly starts sneezing. They'll be like: "Hey, move away from that tray; you sneeze like someone who's got coronavirus."

I want to see what happens at those mobile kitchens you see next to almost every taxi rank around the country.

You'd hear a taxi driver crying out: "Hey, MaGumede go and wash those hands again; you've just served uSibeko who was sneezing so liberally not so long ago!"

Speaking of taxi drivers, I can imagine some bizarre scenes inside many of our taxis. When I was growing up, some taxis bore a stark message: "I like your perm, but not on my windows."

These days, that message could easily be replaced by the words: "No sneezing, no khofing in dis taxi."

Or picture this: all the passengers are sitting with bated breath. No one is saying a word. If they have to communicate, they are sending each other texts. And then somebody starts sneezing or coughing. The taxi driver says in a threatening voice: "Who is that sneezing? Do you want my knobkerrie on your head now? Can't you read that sign?"

I'm actually told that taxi drivers and their scabha boys have embarked on some revolutionary steps at arresting the virus.

Fully aware that one of the ways in which to ameliorate the virus is to wash hands regularly, they have made things easier for themselves and their passengers.

They no longer accept banknotes for taxi fare. They insist on coins. In each taxi, there's a little drum filled with water. Instead of handing your money to the driver or his scabha boy, you toss your coins into the drum.

That way, there is no contact between the passengers' hands which are suspect, and those of the driver. And the money gets cleaned in the water-filled drum. Tough times call for tough measures. As that Twitter guy told us, tough times never last, tough guys always last.

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