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

‘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

Prohibition threatens wine industry’s survival

According to Wosa, the South African wine industry contributes more than R40-billion to the South African economy catering for almost 300 000 jobs.

Students ‘dreams are crumbling’

Those at historically disadvantaged universities feel abandoned while their peers at richer institutions continue with their studies

The art of the virtual experience

The live magic may be gone, but the National Arts Festival showcases some exhilarating work

Ramaphosa asks all South Africans to help to avoid 50 000 Covid-19 deaths this year

Calling this ‘the gravest crisis in the history of our democracy’, the president said level three lockdown remains, but enforcement will be strengthened

Police brutality is government policy

For 20 years ministers in charge of the police have been telling them to beat up or kill criminals
Advertising

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday