Nowhere to go for Bay homeless

BLEAK PROSPECT: Homeless people in Nelson Mandela Bay have been left in limbo by the coronavirus lockdown
BLEAK PROSPECT: Homeless people in Nelson Mandela Bay have been left in limbo by the coronavirus lockdown
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The homeless in Nelson Mandela Bay have been left in a terrifying limbo for the next 21 days.

A lockdown, proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, is a means to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, Covid-19, which is sweeping the globe, with more than 700 cases recorded in SA since March 5.

The Herald spoke to homeless people to see if they were aware of the virus and their plans for the lockdown.

Sizwe Bhenjumane, 27, said he had been living on the streets for more than 12 years and had nowhere to go.

He had never known his mother and had been raised by different families. As a result of ill treatment he had decided to live on the streets.

“I hear people talking about this coronavirus on the streets but I don’t know what exactly it does. I’ve also heard about the lockdown and I am afraid as I don’t have parents, I don’t have a home, so for me this is going to be a difficult situation,” he said.

When asked if he was aware that soldiers would patrol the streets making sure that everyone was indoors, Bhenjumane broke down and pleaded for shelter for him and his friends.

“We are the least important people in the country, that I know, but it would be helpful for us if the government could just provide shelter and food for us during the lockdown.

“We don’t have homes, and for us to eat we need to be on the streets begging. If there is no one going to be allowed and businesses close, we will die of hunger,” he said.

Anoxolo Ntsokwana, 17, said if he had a home he would go there.

“I’m worried with the lockdown. Where are we going to get food?” he said.

Ntsokwana said he had heard that a shelter might be provided for the homeless, but no official had come to speak to them yet.

“I’m not even sure what the virus is about and what is going to happen during the lockdown, but if we have no place and no food, we will die before the virus can kill us,” he said.

Another homeless man, Nkosivumile Nyamende, from Kwazakhele, said if nothing was being done for the homeless he would have to go back there.

“I live on the streets, and know nothing about this virus. I don’t know with this lockdown where they will chase the homeless to but I will try to go back home and hopefully they will accept me.”

He said this would be the worst 21 days in the lives of homeless people, especially those who had nowhere to go.

“I feel for my brothers. I hope something can be done about them.”

Verhde Erkers, 31, from Gelvandale, said he knew nothing about the virus but he would be forced to go back home.

“I don’t know how I’m going to survive, but rather than dying on the streets let me rather go and die at home,” he said.

He said a shelter “rumour” was spreading, but days had gone by and no official came.

“I think they will provide shelter for the homeless in Gauteng, but no-one really cares about us here in PE,” he said.

Questions were sent to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and the department of social development, but they had not reponded by print deadline.