Tuesday, January 26 2021


World News Day: How COVID-19 has changed life in South Africa

Update: September, 28/2020 - 13:54


Mr Neo Letlape, who began experimenting with drugs at 17 and has been living on the streets for over five years, was put in a temporary shelter at the Lyttelton sports club when South Africa went into lockdown in March. — Photo NEWS24

At the start of this year, millions of people around the globe took to their journals to plot out their plans for the months ahead. Many of these included travel, business ventures or cross-country relocation.

But then the coronavirus broke out and put the world on an indefinite pause. On March 5, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed the country's first positive case of the virus.

On March 23, with the number of infections at 402, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown. The President later asked the nation to "endure even longer" and extended the lockdown.

For many South Africans, this was the first time their freedoms were restricted and many citizens were not sure how to deal with the virus and its ramifications.

To better understand how South Africans were adapting to a new normal, News24 spoke to several citizens across the country, to find out how they were living through the pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, you would find 32-year-old Neo Letlape from Soshanguve begging for money in the streets of Tshwane.

He tells people the money is for food, but he actually has a drug addiction. Mr Letlape began experimenting with drugs at 17 and has been living on the streets for more than five years.

When the country went into lockdown, he was put in a temporary shelter at the Lyttelton sports club.

There, he has a roof over his head, access to food, and medication to assist with drug cravings. He is uncertain about what will happen after the lockdown ends.

"This place is temporary. It's not for a long time."

Ms Danielle Bitton, a Cape Town-based singer, is fighting breast cancer during the coronavirus pandemic but, despite her own personal battle, she is still spreading joy. She has treated her neighbours to a series of concerts from the balcony of her apartment in Sea Point during the lockdown.

She says it came as a "complete shock" when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer late last year. She was in China at the time, travelling as a performer in the musical Evita.

She is still undergoing chemotherapy, and due to the lockdown, she has had to brave it on her own. Some days have been tough.

"I am just so grateful for days I do feel better and stronger. I will beat this. I know I will."

Ms Bitton says she is just thankful for the opportunity to spread some joy and hope "in these trying times".

Mr Leonardo Green is a man of his word. From a young age, he always wanted to serve and uplift his community - and today he is doing just that.

As chairman of the Eldorado Park Neighbourhood Watch in Johannesburg, he wears many hats.

And with the outbreak of the coronavirus, he has added another. If he is not helping to enforce lockdown regulations, or chasing people indoors, he makes sure physical distancing is being implemented at various stores.

Not one to sit on the sidelines, he has also teamed up with various organisations to assist with food parcels for the hungry.

• This story was contributed by News24 for World News Day 2020.


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