Cleaner and Bolt driver on how Covid-19 will affect their jobs: “They don’t care about us”


As the country continues to grapple with the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, which currently stands at 150 confirmed cases in South Africa, working class and self-employed residents are feeling the shift the virus is causing in their line of work.

Gloria Nkosi, a cleaner at a media company in Johannesburg, takes public transport to work every day. Since President Cyril Ramaphosa discouraged the use of public transport on Sunday, she has been worried about the implications restricted travel will have on her ability to work.

“I live in Soweto and the only transport that’s affordable for me is the Rea Vaya bus. I must say I hadn’t been following the news regarding the coronavirus until recently. It’s a scary disease and what is worse is that in these buses we are packed in the hundreds during peak times,” she says.

Read more: Coronavirus: Commuters fear infection in overcrowded taxis, buses and trains

However, the treat of the disease and the travel restrictions are just two of the things she’s worried about, another danger the virus poses to her family is her ability to keep her job.

“There are growing talks in my building of the people who work there working from home now. We are cleaners, we will be left in the cold because of this. They (the company she works for) don’t care about us. The day they decide for their workers to start working from home, we will be left on the outside. They will tell us not to come to work anymore and that will mean no money.”

Thulani, a Bolt driver around Johannesburg, can attest to the growing trend of people working from home. “This week has been very slow. When you work with transporting people you see this very fast. People are not going to work,” he says.

He’s up every day at 5am to start his daily shift of transporting commuters who use the mobile taxi pick-up service. Since last week Thulani says his weekly revenue has declined by half and he anticipates it getting worse.

“More people seem to be leaving Johannesburg now, so even the odd grocery trips and people going out will be non-existent soon. Just look at how free flowing traffic is around Sandton at peak hours. People aren’t going anywhere. These are hard times for business,” Thulani says.

As the Government Gazette announced even more stringent restrictions on Wednesday, Mzansi heads into territory which almost resemble lockdown status.  

Read more: Coronavirus: 5 key regulations governing the national state of disaster

In a Government Gazette signed on Tuesday by co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, government outlined restrictions on alcohol sales and pub operating hours. “All registered or licenced on-consumption liquor premises which can accommodate – including taverns, restaurants and clubs – must be closed with immediate effect, or must be limited to accommodate no more than 50 persons provided that adequate space is available and that all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and limitation of exposure of persons with the Covid-19 virus are adhered to,” the regulations state.

These regulations essentially shut down all night clubs as they must be closed between 6pm and 9am during weekdays and on Saturdays and can operate from 9am to 1pm on Sundays and public holidays. Liquor stores must be closed between 6pm and 9am during weekdays and Saturdays and must close at 1pm on Sundays and public holidays.

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