My Story: Zuzeka Sikhephe

Mom of a grade 4 learner (Uyanda) at The Kusasa Project Early Learning Centre

My name is Zuzeka – call me Zuzu. Together with my husband and four children I live in Langrug, an informal settlement high up in the townships of Franschhoek. We moved here in 2007 from the Eastern Cape, where I still call home. My children are between 4 and 15 years old. Three of my kids are going to school, all to different schools. My daughter Uyanda (9) is at the Early Learning Centre in Grade 4 and I really hope that my 4 year old gets accepted at The Kusasa Project next year too. My husband does maintenance work at a local farm and I am a barista at a local roastery and café. I finished my barista training just before the start of the lockdown. I’m very lucky.

I found out about the coronavirus not long before the start of the lockdown. We really thought that, while being cautious, we could carry on with life as normal. When people started to get sick I realised that it was serious. I started to believe that if you get the virus, you die. The full lockdown caught me by total surprise. My immediate thought was to take all the kids to my parents in the Eastern Cape (EC) where there is so much space. But this would mean packed busses and putting my parents at risk…. So I changed my mind. In the EC hospitals are always full and far away. If you were pregnant you would give birth on the way, if you got the virus you would die on the way.

It is not easy to live here under lockdown and it has been very difficult to keep to the rules and regulations. The shack is very hot in summer and very cold in winter, which makes it difficult to isolate. I hear the virus hangs in the air so what is the difference? The air is coming in anyway. We sit in the sun chatting and the kids play outside. As we’re the only ones with satellite TV in our area, all the kids come – without wearing masks – to our house to watch cartoons. I can’t tell them to get out of the house. My kids help me sanitise the house with water and Dettol after their friends have left. When the soldiers came into the community and helicopters were flying over, people rushed out to make videos, instead of staying indoors. Because everybody is at home there are so much more people around. I really wished for rain! Then at least people would stay inside their own shack. We just simply cannot lock up a gate and stay safe. It is what it is.

We were lucky that my husband could continue with work during the hardest level (level 5) of the lockdown. My work stopped, no work – no pay. With the help of food parcels distributed by The Kusasa Project and the spinach I grow in my garden I was able to feed the family. The alcohol ban worked well for me. My husband stopped drinking and didn’t go look for it and this carried on even after the ban with lifted.

Life is easier now under level 3. I’m back at work, work fewer hours but get full pay. Uyanda is back at school. It was an easy decision for me to send her back to school, it is so much safer there than being at home! Social distancing, sanitising and face protection really do make a difference. She received activity packs during the lockdown but nothing more exciting then going back. She missed everybody; she missed that very happy place.

People are catching the virus but it’s not something they want to talk about. I think that people are ashamed and rather keep it to themselves. I’m not sure about what will happen in the near future, there won’t be a vaccine soon. For now nothing will change, the masks and sanitising will stay part of life. I just hope that one day, life will be back to normal. Especially for my oldest daughter, I’m worried about her education.