Patrick, who works as head of security for the Nizamiye Masjid (mosque) in Midrand, Johannesburg, is adamant that no one will be allowed into the complex on Friday “unless they are going to the clinic”.
“We cannot allow anyone in because we are in 21 days of lockdown,” he said.
“All prayers have been stopped and people were told to pray at home.”
Usually, the mosque, which can accommodate more than 5 000 people, is packed for midday prayers from about 12.30pm on a Friday, but on day 1 of South Africa’s 21-day lockdown it was startlingly empty.
The lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus came into force at midnight, with police and the military patrolling the streets to make sure that no one is putting themselves or anyone else at risk of contracting the disease.
In Olievenhoutbosch, near Midrand, more than 500 people queued outside a Shoprite, waiting for their turn to enter the supermarket.
“We are trying to minimise the flow [of people] so that customers can enjoy their shopping,” branch manager Sipho Khoza said.
He explained that they opened at 7am to accommodate those who were only paid their wages and salaries late on Thursday.
Most stores which sell essential items such as food and medical supplies are allowed to operate during the lockdown.
Melissa, who only gave City Press her first name, works as a cleaner in Centurion. She got out of her Avanza-driven lift, which had five other people in it, including the driver. She had a scarf wrapped around her mouth and nose, and had seven plastic bags filled with groceries on the floor.
“I only got paid last night and had to get food for the family,” she told City Press.
Melissa said she felt like she took a risk venturing out, especially in a lift that was so full, but said she had no choice.
She did, however, make the conscious decision to go out alone and purchase goods for the family.
“It’s part of the prevention rules,” she said, adding that she and her family will have to survive the next 21 days “by God’s grace”.
A security guard outside the Shoprite told people to keep distance from each other. Some moved away, others didn’t give her the time of day, while most carried on talking to those close to them.
She yelled: “Keep your distance!” and this time more people decided to listen to her. However, one woman argued that if they carried on moving backwards they would end up at the plaza gate.
“It’s terrible,” the guard told City Press, requesting to remain anonymous.
“We are trying to keep people at a safe distance from each other in this line, but they just don’t want to listen.”
Scattered in the queue were those wearing masks and gloves, but the majority were not, while children played near their parents and guardians.
“We were told by Shoprite to not wear gloves or masks. We got our own gloves, but we couldn’t find masks,” the security woman said.
“We are still waiting for the divisional teams to assist,” Khoza said when asked why he and his staff were not wearing masks and gloves.
However, he added that everyone entering the store was given a squeeze of sanitiser.
“Each cashier must also sanitise their area and their hands after a customer leaves,” Khoza said, adding the phrase “We are trying,” twice.
He said the most popular purchased item was 5kg chicken, which was sold out by 10am, “but we are getting more”.
On the streets of Olievenhoutbosch, people selling chickens, walking with live chickens and going about were stopped by police officers and asked what they were doing.
Most immediately scurried away when they saw the police, but many more sat outside their homes, drinking and talking, with the odd shout of “corona!” piercing the sombre scene.
Hawkers selling sweets, fruits and vegetables, who traditionally line the roads, were nowhere to be seen.
Police officers said they were only doing their duty, making sure that people were either going home or en route to buy essential goods and services, before referring any other questions to the divisional spokesperson.
On the roads adjacent to Olievenhoutbosch, police had set up road blocks, questioning drivers as to where they were going.
As we were told to depart the Nizamiye mosque compound at 1pm, the sounds of the Azaan (call to prayer) echoed on the loud speakers, with only the birds firmly perched on the tiled roof of the mosque there to take in the beautiful melody, seemingly without concern.