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15th June 2024

By Humairaa Mayet

As Covid-19 spreads rapidly around the country, even during the government-mandated lockdown, all classes are affected. It is, however, abundantly clear that poor and working people are the most affected and will continue to bear the brunt of the five-week lockdown.

Hassen Lorgat of the Bench Marks Foundation spoke to Salaamedia’s Azhar Vadi on the Alternative View this morning about the effects of the virus and the lockdown on the impoverished classes.

“Many already have respiratory diseases and infections in mining areas such as Riverlea due to the pollution,” said Lorgat. “Undoubtedly, their pre-existing illnesses, coupled with inadequate healthcare, will result in many of these individuals being extremely susceptible to the coronavirus.”

“There is tension between livelihood and lives,” Lorgat stated, “and mining is being prioritized over quality of life.”

Mines on the West Coast are still operational amidst the outbreak and lockdown, with minimal oversight which places the workers at an even higher risk. The structural inequality that pervades these areas is only deepened by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

A vast majority of the mining towns are several hours away from cities, making it incredibly difficult for those who live there to seek help. According to Lorgat, life in these towns is already precarious and the lockdown will most certainly entrench this.

“The Department of Water and Sanitation has thus far delivered 41 000 water tankers to poverty-stricken areas. Mining towns, however, will require even more water from the government as mining companies often pollute the water supply in these areas. The water is often poor in quality, intermittent in supply, and discoloured.”

With the coronavirus placing millions of immunocompromised people at risk, and the lockdown suspending the incomes of the majority of the country, the poor and working class are – and will continue to be – deeply affected by this catastrophe.

Featured image by Media Club via Daily Maverick.