South Africa gathered homeless people into a sports stadium. Here too, coronavirus divides rich from poor
Johannesburg, South Africa(CNN)The policeman raised his bullhorn to shout instructions, backed up by a group of soldiers piling out of an armored personnel carrier.
“Go home. Get your stuff and go,” he yelled. It was an impossible instruction to a group of homeless people stirring from under their cardboard boxes and sleeping bags.
The streams of mostly young men appeared in alleyways and from under store-front awnings in downtown Johannesburg, some carrying satchels, others holding black plastic trash bags with all of their possessions.
“We are going to have a tough time with this,” said Philip Janjtie, a young homeless man who had traveled to the city to find work.
On day one of the coronavirus, or Covid-19, lockdown in South Africa last Friday, the stark divide in the world’s most unequal society was immediately laid bare. So far more than 1,300 people have been confirmed with the disease in South Africa, but authorities are bracing for the worst.
In affluent suburbs, people woke up to the inconvenient reality of three weeks isolated in their homes. Only essential movement is allowed and parks are closed. But many have gardens for their children to play in.
In informal settlements and city centers across the country, however, South Africans have limited choices to keep themselves safe from the virus.
Across this continent, social distancing is a refuge for the privileged and ingrained inequality is the reality everywhere. In Lagos, Nigeria — where the informal economy is the lifeblood and lifeline for millions — the markets are now shuttered. In Kenya, police have enforced a curfew with batons and teargas