Need to eat trumps Covid-19 fears

MASKING THE PROBLEM: Gertrude Venford, 58, stands outside her house in Colchester township on Tuesday morning, waiting for a lift into Port Elizabeth to go for a check-up. She did not want to be interviewed but said her ailment was not related to Covid-19
MASKING THE PROBLEM: Gertrude Venford, 58, stands outside her house in Colchester township on Tuesday morning, waiting for a lift into Port Elizabeth to go for a check-up. She did not want to be interviewed but said her ailment was not related to Covid-19
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

In Colchester township, Covid-19 is something the people have heard about — but struggling to put food on the table because of the lockdown is their grim reality.

Tucked away off the N2 between the town of Colchester, the Sundays River and a ridge dotted with spekboom, the gravel streets of the township were tranquil on Tuesday morning.

But just beneath this air of rural calm, the situation is dire.

Felicity Goliath, 49, said she and the four other members of her household had their backs to the wall.

“After lockdown began, we had power for that first day and then no more because there is no money to buy electricity.

“We have some mielie pap but nothing else and I don’t know going forward what we’re going to eat.”

She said they urgently needed to move out of their house to try to solve their crisis.

“But the lockdown says I can’t even go and get a piece of bread from a neighbour.” 

Her husband Johnny Goliath, 53, said he was looking forward to seeing the guavas on the tree in his front yard ripen, but then they needed to be  harvested quickly otherwise they would disappear because everyone was hungry.

“This lockdown is bad. I did piece jobs as a gardener for bed and breakfasts in town but the last job I did was the day before lockdown and if I try for more work now I will get fined R5,000 for walking around.”

SPLASH OF COLOUR: Colchester township resident Nomsa Nkomombini washes her hands in the yard of the small house she shares with four other family members. The lockdown is problematic because jobs are what matters most, she says
SPLASH OF COLOUR: Colchester township resident Nomsa Nkomombini washes her hands in the yard of the small house she shares with four other family members. The lockdown is problematic because jobs are what matters most, she says
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Nomsa Nkomombini, 45, dressed in a bright red dressing gown and washing her hands at a tap in her yard, said she had previously earned money doing part-time domestic worker jobs but this income had dried up during the lockdown.

“Now there is no money left.

“This lockdown is not right.

“It’s better we have jobs.”

HURTING BADLY: Nomlindo Moshani says she is missing her children and without her domestic piece-work she is struggling to feed herself and pay the rent
HURTING BADLY: Nomlindo Moshani says she is missing her children and without her domestic piece-work she is struggling to feed herself and pay the rent
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Nomlindo Mashini, 47, originally from Peddie, said she too had been doing domestic part-time jobs in the nearby towns of Colchester and Cannonville.

“Now there is no money coming in and I have to buy food and pay R200 a month rent.

“I heard there were some food parcels being handed out to those who do not get a government grant, but I do not get a grant and I got no food parcel.

“I don’t know what I am going to do.”

Her two children were with her mother in Port Elizabeth, she said.

“My heart is very sore when I think of them.

“Here by myself I read The Bible and You magazines.”

BACKS TO THE WALL: Colchester resident Johnny Goliath speaks of his frustration at not being able to get out to do piece jobs during the lockdown. The family, including his wife Felicity, 49, back centre, and daughter-in-law Noeline Bekeer, 27, are struggling with just a single monthly state grant to support themselves
BACKS TO THE WALL: Colchester resident Johnny Goliath speaks of his frustration at not being able to get out to do piece jobs during the lockdown. The family, including his wife Felicity, 49, back centre, and daughter-in-law Noeline Bekeer, 27, are struggling with just a single monthly state grant to support themselves
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Malow Nortje, 14, a pupil at Colchester Primary School, was walking home with a loaf of bread she had bought at the Amakhosi Cafe.

She said she was worried about the lockdown.

STUDYING HARD: Colchester Primary School pupil Malow Nortje, 14, studying at home on Tuesday. She says she is concerned about her studies but her teachers are trying to help
STUDYING HARD: Colchester Primary School pupil Malow Nortje, 14, studying at home on Tuesday. She says she is concerned about her studies but her teachers are trying to help
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

“My teachers do send instructions to my parents through the phone and I try to do homework, but I am worried about my studies.”

One 30-year-old man, who asked not to be named, was sweeping out the sitting room of his small house while his toddler daughter played on the steps.

She was looking good, he said proudly, and it was because he was using the skills he had to survive.

“I go fishing every night in the river. The authorities stop us during the day but what else can I do to feed my child?

“Myself and a few other guys go out in our rowing boats and we get kob and grunter sometimes, a good size.”

Domestic worker Eunice Gqogqani, 56, said she was lucky as her employer had given her money to tide her over the lockdown, her husband was getting Unemployment Insurance Fund money through his job and her son was still working as a security guard.

But many people were struggling and the authorities had made little effort to engage the Colchester township community, she said.

“We learnt of this coronavirus from the TV. Nobody has come to test us to see if we have it.”

There were some good things about the situation, she said.

“It is good that the bottle store is closed and, because people have to stay home, they are cutting the grass, fixing their fences. Those things are good.”

THIN TRADE: The manager of Amakhosi Cafe in Colchester, Ali Showb, 38, says business is slow as residents cannot work and therefore have no money and the shop is struggling too. He says he has also encountered difficulties obtaining the necessary permits to allow him to truck in replacement stocks from Port Elizabeth
THIN TRADE: The manager of Amakhosi Cafe in Colchester, Ali Showb, 38, says business is slow as residents cannot work and therefore have no money and the shop is struggling too. He says he has also encountered difficulties obtaining the necessary permits to allow him to truck in replacement stocks from Port Elizabeth
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

In the Amakhosi Cafe, a cat was sitting contentedly by the door in a shaft of sunlight but manager Ali Showb, 38, looked glum.

“Business is slow. People are not working so they have no money,” he said.

“They ask for credit and we try to help but we are also struggling. Life is very difficult.”

Out on the N2 at a roadblock just west of Colchester, a policeman, who asked not to be named, said they had arrested three motorists for not having permits to travel on Tuesday morning.

“We are letting locals through who are on their way to buy groceries and pharmaceuticals in Port Elizabeth, but they should please just keep their slips to prove to us where they have been.

“Don’t take chances otherwise we will turn you back or arrest you.”

 

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