Lockdown | 'Yesterday I only ate plain pap' - foreign nationals living in Diepsloot struggle financially

Members of South African National Defence Force patrol the streets of Diepsloot in Johannesburg. (Felix Dlangamandla/Gallo Images)
Members of South African National Defence Force patrol the streets of Diepsloot in Johannesburg. (Felix Dlangamandla/Gallo Images)

Some foreign nationals living in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, say they wish they had gone home before the national lockdown kicked in. 

Samuel Sibanda from Mozambique said he arrived in the country six years ago seeking employment.

He now regrets not going home days before President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown on 23 March.

"I was here in Diepsloot selling live chickens. I never thought that there would be a lockdown in South Africa. I was ill-informed about the coronavirus. I thought it was an illness that was only based overseas, not in Africa.

"When the president announced a lockdown, I thought it was only going to last for 21 days and I was wrong. When Ramaphosa extended the lockdown that's when I started feeling why I didn't go home.

"I am stuck here in Diepsloot with my brother. We want to go home, but it won't happen because the borders are closed and we would be arrested should we attempt to head home," Sibanda said.

He claimed the number of chickens he sold a day was getting less and at times a day would pass without him seeing customers.


"People don't have money any more. The majority of our neighbours went back home to various provinces to be with their families," said Sibanda.

Malawian national John Moyo had been in the country for seven months when the lockdown was implemented.

He regrets the day he came to South Africa.

"If I knew things would be as they are now, I would not have bothered leaving Malawi. I don't have money to buy food and to pay my monthly rent," said Moyo.

READ: Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape may have longer lockdown, Govt warns

He survives on handouts from his landlady and neighbours. 

"Life is tough not only for us foreigners, locals are also complaining about many things related to the lockdown. Unemployment also contributes to our woes as foreigners. Life is tough, and yesterday I only ate plain pap.

"I don't know who is going to give me money to buy something to eat. I miss home and I would not be starving if I was in Malawi," Moyo said.

Patricia Tembo, who also comes from Malawi, said she missed her four children and parents back home.

She arrived in the country in 2015, and was employed as a domestic worker.

Tembo lost her employment a month before the lockdown.

"I want to go home with all my heart. Even if I had money to go back, the borders are closed and no one is allowed to leave South Africa. I thought that the lockdown was a temporary thing and was going to end last week.

"I suspect that the president is going to extend it because more people are dying. I hope this virus stops," Tembo said.

Pamela Ndlovu from Zimbabwean said the police had forced her to close her hair salon business as it was not an essential service.

"Life is hard now. I have managed to buy extra food that will last me for a few weeks. I hope the lockdown ends.

"I am worried about where I am going to get my rent money for the coming months if the lockdown is extended. My savings are drying up and I pray daily to return back and start earning a living," Ndlovu said.

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