Lockdown fears at Wynberg rank

Numbers of commuters at Wynberg taxi rank were very low on Tuesday March 24.

Vendors and minibus-taxi drivers at Wynberg taxi rank fear the three-week lockdown will hit their pockets hard.

The rank was quiet on Tuesday after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced, on Monday, there would be a 21-day national lockdown to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

The lockdown begins at midnight today Thursday March 26 and runs to midnight April 16.

The president said the lockdown would affect almost all sectors of society.

No one will be allowed to leave their home for the 21 days except to seek medical care, buy food, medicine or other necessities and collect social grants.

Health workers, soldiers and police will still work, along with essential personnel in the food, banking and basic-services industries.

By Wednesday March 25, South Africa had 709 Covid-19 cases.

Nosipho Ndzongo, a single mother of five from Philippi, sells chips, sweets, toilet paper and insect repellents at the rank.

Her mother, sister and brother also rely on her income to survive.

“I need the money here as it helps me to buy bread and milk for my family every day, things that we need to survive. Now I’m going to lose almost a month’s worth of money. I make about R500 a week, but since the virus came, I’ve been making half of the money, and it’s only going to get worse from Friday.

“In the past, we’ve had to stay at home when there are taxi strikes, but never this long. The strikes normally only last for two to three days. I have no idea how we’re going to recover from this one.”

Ms Ndzongo said she had been finding it hard to buy toilet paper and other basic necessities because of panic buying. “I wish the president could come here at the rank and talk to us. I would ask him why he took so long to do something? Why he let people come into our country and infect us? Ndizakuncedwa yintoni mna ngoku (What is going to help me to survive now)?”

Ncediswa Ntame, also from Philippi, sells vetkoek stuffed with chicken livers and beef patties. Every day for the past week, she has returned home with unsold vetkoek.

“I usually sell all of them, but I’ve found myself having to go home with them and give them away to people in the community because no one’s buying. The rank is empty.”

She fears her stock will expire by the time the lockdown is over.

“I’ve already been buying less meat these past few months because of load shedding. The meat goes off when the fridge keeps on being turned on and off by the electricity. I only heard about the news (of the lockdown) this morning. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all that meat in my fridge now, especially if we get load shedding again.”

Taxi driver Sonwabo Noboya, of Mfuleni, said the lockdown would hurt taxi drivers. In two weeks, his weekly profits have dropped from R6 000 to R4 000.

“I support the president’s decision because he is doing this to protect us from this disease, but it’s scary because you don’t get things like UIF when you’re a taxi driver.

“I’m a breadwinner, and, as drivers, our salaries depend on how many people we can transport a day. In my five years doing this, I’ve never seen such a de-
crease in numbers of people taking taxis. And my route is busy. I do the Khayelitsha route now, but see for yourself,” he said, pointing to his minibus, “this taxi is empty.” Apart from the lost income, he’s also fearful of the health risks that come with his job. He said he couldn’t afford masks or sanitisers for himself or his passengers.

“I deal with a lot of people a day, and I wouldn’t even know if I had it (Covid-19). Nothing has been distributed to help us or the people who take the taxis. I just wish for the best. I hope we’re going to survive this lockdown.”

On Monday, the South African National Taxi Council (SANTACO) Western Cape organised a walkabout campaign at the Cape Town taxi rank where they handed out pamphlets in three languages on how to contain the spread of Covid-19, distributed gloves and masks, and squirted hand sanitiser onto commuters’ hands.

Santaco Western Cape chairman Nazeem Abdurahman said they would be doing more of the same in coming days.

In his address to the nation on Monday night, Mr Ramaphosa said the lockdown would also place restrictions on public transport, and transport would be organised for essential health workers.