COVID-19 How one tweet changed this South African kid's entire life
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Many things have changed while South Africa has been facing the COVID-19 pandemic, but sometimes perspective is also needed. We forget how difficult it is in this country for so many people; how lockdown is not even an option when you do not even have a home.

 

Johannesburg, South Africa (6 April 2020) – The world is facing an unprecedented time. The COVID-19 virus has to date infected over 1,3 million people globally, resulting in more than 73 000 deaths, and leaving more than 2,5 billion people around the world in some form of lockdown or self-isolation.

With over 1655 cases of COVID-19 recorded in South Africa, there is no denying that the statistics surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic can feel overwhelming.

Roy Blumenthal shared a story with Good Things Guy, which we are sharing for two reasons; to remind you that not everyone walks the same path in our country, and hopefully find help for this homeless man.

Read his story below:

The doorbell rang a few minutes ago. Sundown. Just after I fed the dogs.

I considered not answering it. Then answered it anyway.

Through the intercom, the man on the other side of the gate said, “I’m very sorry to disturb, but I’m just asking if you have any food, any food, anything, we’re suffering, please.”

I asked him to stay there, and I went out to see him. In the meantime, Jen started scouring the pantry for things to give him.

When I opened the gate, I saw a short, thin man, around 40 to 50 years old. He had his cap in his hands.

I said to him, “Jennifer is getting some food for you. Can you wait here, and I’ll bring it?”

“Thank you, sir,” he said.

I closed the gate. Jen had found things. A few cans. Some biscuits. Some Easter eggs. Apples. Bread. I put them in a shopping bag, along with some of my old shirts, a pair of trousers, some socks. Took them outside.

The man said, “Thank you, thank you.” Then he looked in the bag and saw the clothes. He said, “Clothes!”

Looked at me, then put his head against the wall and sobbed. Huge, wracking heaves.

He kept saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” over his tears.

I started crying too. I said, “It must be so hard for you now.”

He cried some more, then said, “The police… They burned my things. Everything. They chase us, and they burned everything.”

He told me he’s staying in a sewage pipe in Patterson Park with two of his homeless friends.
He’s from Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. Had a good job in Krugersdorp for eight years as an assistant at a company that fixed diesel truck gearboxes. The company went out of business three years ago.

And he lost everything.

And now, with COVID-19 ravaging the world, and a police force out of control, and a world premised on squashing the weak and pretending they don’t exist, now he’s probably going to die in the streets.

I asked him to sit on the step outside our gate. I asked him if he would like some tea or coffee. He started sobbing again. Coffee. Four sugars. Milk.

I went and spoke to Jen. She immediately pulled out a pan and fried up some eggs, and made toasted cheese and egg sandwiches for him. She found a blanket for him. I found a scarf for him.

South Africa is going into winter now, and sleeping inside a sewage pipe with nothing but the clothes you’re wearing must be hard.

While we were doing all this, the doorbell rang again. Then immediately after.

“Hello,” I said.

A voice said, “This is Sergeant […….] from the SAPS. What’s going on with this man at your gate?”

I said, “He’s homeless, and we’re giving him some food to eat.”

There was a pause. The voice said, “Okay.”

When I went out again, taking him the coffee and the other stuff, he started crying again.

I asked him to come inside the yard, and sit on our patio, and drink his coffee and eat his sandwich in peace.

We chatted a bit. I learned a bit more about him. Jennifer was phoning the various numbers that have been doing the rounds on social media, to try and find a place of safety for him. The numbers just rang off the hook.

We’re trying to mobilise our networks to see if anyone can help him. He’s going to try and come round tomorrow to see if we’ve managed to make any arrangements.

I bid him hamba kahle (go safely) as he walked down the road. And I hope the police don’t stop him and steal the clothes he’s just gotten and the food he still needs to share with his two friends. I hope he sleeps tonight, and that the cops don’t burn his new blanket.

What is this place we’ve created?

Many things have changed while South Africa has been facing the COVID-19 pandemic, but sometimes perspective is also needed. We forget how difficult it is in this country for so many people; how lockdown is not even an option when you do not even have a home.

Statistics SA released their annual update to the poverty lines in August last year and stated that 60% of South Africans earn less than R1227 per month (which is known as the upper-bound poverty line). Within that category, 26% of South Africans earn less than R560 a month (which is known as the food poverty line).

Imagine living off just R18 a day to feed yourself and your family… well 60% of our country does.

Researchers believe that for a South African to live with a basic level of dignity, they require R7630 a month.

That would cover rent, food, electricity, school fees, transport to work and products to keep yourself clean. Taking that into consideration would mean that in reality, 90% of South Africans live below the poverty line as only 10% of the country earn more than R7630 per month.

Imagine trying to lockdown when you earn between R7630 and nothing every month. It is just not possible.

Luckily there are still really good people in our country who want to help and do help those that can’t.

Please if you can help connect with Roy by clicking here or read our article on how to give back during COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa.


Source: Roy Blumenthal | STATS SA | COVID-19 
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About the Author

Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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