December is usually a time where airports, bus stations, and taxi stations are filled with travellers looking to go for a holiday or to reunite with their loved ones.
Jama Adam Dirie, from Somalia, would have been one of those people, but instead, he will be spending Christmas alone without his family. The 60-year-old has been living in South Africa for the past 30 years. He runs a tuckshop in Umlazi, a township 30 minutes away from Durban.
He planned to first visit his son, who lives in Germany, then they would travel together to Somali to be with the rest of the family. But because of COVID 19, his plans to, have come to a halt.
“At first, I had planned to travel to Germany in April, but it didn’t happen because of coronavirus. In March, after the South African government announced lockdown restrictions, I had hope that the situation will come back to normal, but it didn’t. I got a son who is living in Germany and we have not seen each other for eight years. So, I was looking forward to seeing him before we take a trip together to my home in Somalia. This coronavirus has left a huge hole in our lives and there is nothing we can do about it. All we have to do is to try and adapt to these hard living conditions,” says Dirie.
Dirie is not the only one who finds himself in this position.
According to Stats SA, there was a 89.6% decrease in departures at points of entry in South Africa in October 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. The decrease in arrivals at points of entry in October 2020 compared to October 2019 was slightly higher at 90.4%.
It is not only the restrictions on travel that have made it difficult for Dirie to see his family. COVID 19 has made traveling to other countries more expensive. Travellers to and from South Africa are required to obtain a COVID-19 test result not older than 72 hours before their trip. This test in South Africa costs at least R850.
Since his own business suffered because of the pandemic, Dirie has had to use some of the money he had saved to travel to sustain himself, his wife, and his employees.
“The situation has been tough for me and my family. For the past two months, I haven’t been able to pay the rent in full, ” said Dirie, who employs four shop assistants.
He lives in Durban central and his rent costs R6 000.
“The landlord has been reasonable since that flat has been my home for the past eight years. I still have to pay all my workers a full salary every month because they got their families to look after. I still have to provide for my family since I’m the only one working. So, I cannot travel to see my family. And I have to relax but my heart is with my family.”
Berry Dube is a 43-year-old Zimbabwean bartender who lives in Johannesburg. He has decided not to go home because of the current difficulties and delays in crossing the border into Zimbabwe and to put in some extra work time to make up for the loss of income during level five and four lockdowns.
He does, however, plan to visit his partner and two children in Cape Town at some point during the festive season.
“I had to make other means to celebrate the holidays. Luckily, the mother of my children is living in Cape Town. So, we are going to spend time together. It has been a long time since I last saw my children. I want to cherish every moment with them. I do feel sorry for those who can’t see their relatives at this time, but we have to adapt to the new normal,” says Dube.
Author- Thathe Msimango
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