Slice of life: ‘People have more compassion’

I’ve been homeless for 10 years. When my father died in 2010, I was excluded from his will because of my drinking and carrying on. I used to be a swimming pool technician in Bryanston — I’m a sort of jack-of-all trades.

These days, I stay wherever I can hide away; where the cops can’t see me. Since the lockdown, the cops say they are going to take us homeless folk to a shelter, but they don’t really do it — they just chase us along, and tell us that we can’t stay here. But we’ve worked out their times: they come between ten and 11 in the morning, and two to three in the afternoon. The security and metro cops — they leave us alone.

But now we’ve found a secret spot behind a shopping centre, in a room where there used to be an electrical transformer, which they’ve stripped out. Since the lockdown, with all the rain, we’ve been in there.

People are giving much more tips since the lockdown happened: they seem to have more compassion, even though there are fewer cars passing. Among the locals I have so many Good Samaritans. They give me food; if I need clothes, I ask them for clothes — I’ve got my regulars. I work here by Impala [corner of Hockey Avenue and Beyers Naudé Drive] and I used to stand by Westpark Cemetery on Sundays, but since the lockdown, there’s nobody going to the graveyard. I used to make a whack there, hey.

Before lockdown I was drinking, and I was making R200, R250 a day, but as I was making it, I was drinking a lot of it. Since the lockdown I’m making about R300 a day, but I’m not drinking it any more: I’m buying food. Before Checkers closes in the evening, I go buy some lekker food, so I’m keeping myself healthy. You know, this coronavirus thing, I just feel, if South Africans can stick together, we’ll get through this. — John Williams, 56, as told to Derek Davey


Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Derek Davey
Derek Davey

Derek Davey is a sub-editor in the Mail & Guardian’s supplements department who occasionally puts pen to paper. He has irons in many metaphysical fires – music, mantras, mortality and mustaches.

Related stories

Load-shedding’s silver lining: Lower levels of sulphur dioxide air pollution

Analysis of Nasa data shows that although SO₂ emissions around the world have fallen by about 6%, the levels are high enough to harm the health of billions of people.

Covid-19 jobs unlikely to bounce back

Evidence suggests that job losses triggered by the lockdown may be long lasting

‘Lockdown quarter’ sees jobs bloodbath

The decline in employment has been accompanied by a larger increase in economic inactivity, resulting in a 42% expanded unemployment rate

Dancing on the grave of Covid?

Lay low for now as lockdown lifts to level one and let’s Jerusalema when the long arm of the law reaches Luthuli House

South Africa goes to Covid-19 level 2 on Monday

President Ramaphosa drops most of the restrictions that have been in place for the last five months, citing ‘signs of hope’

‘I will have to repeat grade 8’

Schools have been closed again. After months of doing schoolwork at home, not all parents think their children are ready to move to the next grade
Advertising

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday