The seven-day grace period for people to move from one province to another during lockdown came to an end at midnight on Thursday, 7 May 2020. Thousands of people took up the opportunity to either return to their places of work or go home. Before lockdown I had travelled from Johannesburg to Durban as I did not feel I was safe from contracting Covid-19 in my current setting. I also feared getting sick while hundreds of kilometres away from family and anyone who can actually check on me should the need arise.
As the president announced the relaxing of some of the lockdown regulations, including opening some industries to boost the struggling economy, I too took the opportunity to return to Joburg on that Thursday. In an unfamiliar yet soothing fashion of comfortability, our taxi – carrying 10 passengers as per the regulations – left Durban at 15h48 for Joburg after several delays.
I had thoughts of abandoning the trip considering the 20h00 to 05h00 curfew in place, because we would not be allowed to enter Gauteng after curfew. Nevertheless, I hoped since it was the last day an exception would be made and indeed, we were allowed to pass through, with a warning to the taxi driver that he will need a permit when going back to KZN the following day.
The uncomfortable part of the gruelling trip was the unavailability of hot food along the way and the few chips and sweets available on shelves at rest stops. I had thought that being allowed to enter Gauteng after curfew was the last hurdle – but when the taxi arrived at Wanderers Taxi Rank, more than a hundred people, still holding on to their luggage, were waiting at the rank. The police were everywhere, making sure nobody left. Ride-hailing services had also stopped operating so I approached a nearby cab to enquire, but before I could finish talking to the driver, five police officers approached him and threatened to arrest him if he continued to try to sneak people away.
This dashed my hopes of getting to my place; I was told that we could only leave at 05h00 when the curfew ended. Our taxi driver had also agreed to let us sleep inside the taxi. He turned on the heater while people tried to sleep. I called a friend who lives nearby and secured myself a place to sleep. The biggest problem was walking from the taxi rank to Hillbrow at night carrying bags. I quickly dashed into the darkness and found my friend waiting – I finally felt safe.
Throughout the journey, it was good to see law enforcement actually doing their best to make sure people adhere to the regulations, ensuring people have their masks on, and testing for temperatures.