WATCH | Armageddon outta here: Capetonians flock to 'safer' Eastern Cape rural homes

Taxi conductor Masonwabe Faleni prepares to leave Cape Town for his family home in King William's Town on Wednesday.
Taxi conductor Masonwabe Faleni prepares to leave Cape Town for his family home in King William's Town on Wednesday.
Image: Sipokazi Fokazi

With the clock ticking down to three weeks of lockdown, Cape Town is experiencing an exodus to the Eastern Cape.

Some of those boarding minibus taxis and buses believed that heading for their sparsely populated "home" villages would "save them".

Others saw the 21 days ahead as a chance to bond with families they normally see only during the December and January holidays.

Gidi Buyana and her husband Nkosinathi Buyana left Cape Town on Wednesday to join their parents and two children in King William’s Town.

The couple, who normally make the journey every two months and stay for a few days, said three weeks at home would be a rare opportunity to bond with their children, who live in the Eastern Cape.

"It’s like a holiday that came early for us. There is no point staying in Cape Town as both of us will not be working. We would rather be with our loved ones and children than being in the city doing nothing," said Gidi.

Masonwabe Faleni from Dunoon left by taxi to join his parents in Ngcobo. The 22-year-old taxi gaartjie (conductor) said going home would not only “make me safe” from the coronavirus but would also mean he could eat.

"The kind of job that I do only allows me to eat from hand to mouth. If we go on lockdown the taxi business will come to a halt and that will mean that I won’t earn money," he said.

"If I stay in Cape Town, chances are I may end up without any food. There is also no overcrowding in my village, so the virus spread will not be as bad as here in the city."

The food supply at his rural home is particularly good at the moment as it is harvest time. "There is plenty of food and fresh vegetables in my parents’ garden, so I will not go hungry. Hopefully the movement will not be as restricted as here in the city,” he said.

Bulelwa Matroos, who coordinates taxi trips from Dunoon taxi rank to the Eastern Cape, said she had seen unprecedented numbers of people heading home.

"We’ve seen about a tenfold increase. At this time of the week, we [usually] hardly have anyone travelling. People often start travelling on Thursday evening to attend funerals in the Eastern Cape. But since the announcement of lockdown, people have been flocking to the rank to register their names," she said.

Sihle Goduka boarded a taxi on Wednesday in Philippi, Cape Town, planning to spend the 21-day lockdown at her Eastern Cape home in Mount Frere with her three children.
Sihle Goduka boarded a taxi on Wednesday in Philippi, Cape Town, planning to spend the 21-day lockdown at her Eastern Cape home in Mount Frere with her three children.
Image: Esa Alexander

In Philippi, Zihle Goduka said she and her three children were heading to Mount Frere to escape the crowded and unsanitary conditions in Khayelitsha, which she said were exacerbated by a devil-may-care attitude to contracting Covid-19.

"We are running away from this 21-day lockdown," said Goduka as she waited to board a long-distance minibus taxi.

"I just think the Eastern Cape is safer than the Western Cape. There’s not a lot of people that side compared to the urban areas, and it’s spacious there. Here the houses are too close together, there the houses are scattered far apart. It’s much safer.

"There are kids playing in the parks, and I can’t fully control the kids, they want to go out. If I’m in the Eastern Cape, I just close the gate to my yard and they can play outside. There’s nowhere else for them to go."

Goduka said she would stock up on food after arriving in Mount Frere. "There’s a Shoprite there, so as soon as I get home I’ll get my brothers to go and collect supplies," she said.

"What I’ve noticed here is that people don’t care - they say we are going to get this virus anyway. That is one of the reasons why I want to leave. People don’t care. They are very careless about this virus. They don’t understand how dangerous it is."

Some in rural areas expressed concern about people flocking to their villages from cities this week. Nomalizo Mfeketho, from Mbewuleni in Dutywa, said she had asked her children in Durban and Cape Town not to come home as she fears that they might spread the killer virus.

She said many of those who had started arriving in her village were not aware of their Covid-19 status.

"Even though these are our children and relatives, we are worried by the movement from the cities to rural villages. Imagine if they bring it here - where would we even go for tests? I'm 70 years old and I know that if this virus infects me, that will be the end of me.

"Health services in rural areas are not as great as the urban areas. To be safe, I’ve discouraged my children not to come, just in case they are already infected. I’d rather be alone than be infected with the virus."

- Additional reporting by Aron Hyman


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