As millions of South Africans stayed home on Friday, the first day of a 21-day nationwide lockdown, essential services workers had to wake up as early as 4 am to report for duty.
These include health workers, cashiers, petrol attendants, and garbage collectors.
Rubbish trucks from the Johannesburg’s waste management company, Pikitup, moved swiftly through the streets of Soweto on Friday, with no law-enforcement officials in sight.
Thokozani Mjoli, a garbage collector, said he was thrilled to be considered an essential services worker who “served the country, no matter what”.
“It feels good to do something good for the country, especially now that there is a big crisis. We can’t say no, the country needs us, no matter what,” he said.
Mjoli said if he and his colleagues downed their tools, the country would not be able to operate.
“It shows we are important if we stopped working the country would stink.”
Petrol attendant Vuyani Zikalala echoed similar sentiments: “It’s nice to know we are needed all the time.”
Unlike Mjoli, Zikalala said he would have preferred to visit his KwaZulu-Natal home to spend quality time with his family.
“This week has been really busy for us. We helped many people who were traveling to their homes across the country. That reminded me I have not been home in two years because it’s always busy,” he said.
A nurse at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital told TimesLIVE she had to leave her home as early as 4 am because she was not sure she would get transport. She usually leaves around 6 am.
“There was a lot of confusion about public transport operating. I had to make it a point to wake up early because thousands of people rely on our services, especially with this pandemic. Everybody is anxious,” she said.
Unlike others, she said, she would not be able to cope if she had to stay at home.
“Yhoo! What would I possibly do at home for 21 days? I would probably die,” she joked.