“Asiyibambeni singayi yekeli, size sifike ekugcineni. Ngithi asiyeni phambili!” (let’s persevere until the end, let’s move forward).
I wasn’t sure whether I’d wanted to be part of the screening campaign at first, but I enjoy it now even though we work non-stop. I love putting on my white overalls and getting to work. I know the coronavirus is very infectious but I always follow the safety precautions. I’m very proud of being part of efforts to keep my community safe from this disease. When I first heard about COVID-19, I didn’t understand the seriousness of it until I saw 25 people being buried in a mass grave in Italy – that gave me a wake-up call.”
Facebook and other social media have shown that they can be harmful during this time. There is a lot of false news circulating. For example, there are people that believe that a concoction from Madagascar can cure COVID-19. We’ve had to explain to them that our countries are not the same: we don’t eat the same food, or have the same climate. You could find that the drink is harmful. Our government is busy testing its safety and whether it actually works. So far, only a few people have kept us from visiting them at their homes, but the majority have had no problem. Those that wouldn’t let us into their homes were afraid that we [CHWs] would infect them with COVID-19 because we go from home to home screening people for the disease. Some even believe that we’ll infect them with COVID-19 through 5G waves, which is another myth that is going around on social media.
Everyone knows what social distancing is, even children –our community is trying their best to do it correctly and I’ve also seen this at the mall and banks. I believe that the real reason for the high number of coronavirus cases is because we are situated next to the Mozambique and Eswatini borders. When the lockdown began, the people from those countries who work on farms in Nkomazi were unable to return home and now they are stuck here.
They also don’t have a lot of friends this side who can support them this side with food and shelter, nor do they have government benefits: a lot of them don’t have passports so they can’t get any assistance. Another reason is that a lot of international tourists would pass through Nkomazi and that possibly contributed to the fast spread of COVID-19 here. One of the first cases was traced back to the Spar in Malelane and that is where many tourists exchange their money. It is also the preferred supermarket for many of our community members.”
I’d like to tell the community to avoid social media, and obey the lockdown laws that are in effect. People should also not buy things like cement, expensive clothes and furniture with the Social Relief of Distress grant, they should buy food instead because if their bodies are not nourished it can be easy for them to get ill. I urge them to eat foods that are high in Vitamin C during this time such as lemons, oranges and other citrus fruit as well as garlic. We’ve told mothers to buy oranges instead of yoghurt, for example, because of the Vitamin C content or to buy Vitamin C supplements for their children at pharmacies.
We should just stay at home. Let’s fight COVID-19. It will pass.”
**** This story was first published in the Masked Heroes magazine.