Lockdown Journal: Day 35 (Level 4)

by | Apr 30, 2020 | COVID-19, Johannesburg | 30 comments

f you’re new to this blog series and don’t know what’s happening with South Africa’s 21-day (now 35-day) lockdown, my first post  has all the details. Or read all my lockdown posts.

It’s South African Lockdown Day 35 — the last day of the “Level 5” lockdown before we move to “Level 4”.

Arum lily in the garden
Lockdown Photo 35: Macro shot of an arum lily in my garden. My Canon EOSR f1.8 macro lens has served me well during this lockdown.

If you live in South Africa, you probably already know most of the country is freaking out. Last night, the Minister of Cooperative Governance Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the official Level 4 guidelines, and there were some surprises.

Here are some of the most notable announcements from the speech:

  1. Cigarettes and tobacco: The government reversed its initial pronouncement that the cigarette ban would be lifted in Level 4. After putting the draft regulations out for public comment last weekend (an action I don’t think most South Africans were aware of), the government decided to continue the cigarette ban after all. The sale of alcohol is also still banned.
  2. Exercise: As President Ramaphosa announced last week, exercise will be allowed during Level 4, but only under strict conditions. Those conditions are stricter than expected. We will be allowed to exercise within five kilometers of our homes, but only between 6 and 9 a.m.
  3. Curfew: Although Minister Dlamini-Zuma did not use the word “curfew”, she made it clear everyone must stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless they have a permit stating otherwise.
  4. Recycling: Both formal and informal recycling will be allowed under Level 4. (I was really happy to hear about the informal recycling part.)
  5. Restaurants: Restaurants are allowed to re-open but for food and meal delivery only.

In addition to the above, the most important changes under Level 4 are that many business, industry, and retail sectors will re-open. Schools will also re-open under a very gradual, phased approach between May and July.

The country is in an uproar over many of the items above — especially the cigarette ban, the exercise rules, and the curfew. People were losing their minds on social media last night, with accusations flying about government incompetence, President Ramaphosa’s impotence in the face of ANC and EFF forces, and Minister Dlamini-Zuma’s reported connection to black-market tobacco smugglers.

I also felt (and still feel) quite upset. I think reversing course on the cigarette ban ending — after everyone had gotten their hopes up about it — was an incredibly stupid and cruel decision, regardless of the real motivation. The one thing that’s made me feel safe and confident up until now has been the government’s decisiveness and relative consistency in messaging. Those feelings of safety and confidence have now dissipated.

The exercise rule also makes no sense to me. It’s winter in South Africa and the sun doesn’t rise in Joburg until 6:30 a.m. (In Cape Town it’s even worse: Sunrise is currently at 7:30 a.m. and growing later.) Why force everyone to crowd onto the streets at the same time? And what does this rule mean for people who want/need to walk to the shops at other times of the day?

I didn’t watch the speech last night. I just read comments about it on social media and heard things from friends via WhatsApp. I woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly felt suffocated — paralyzed with fear that every aspect of life in South Africa is now being dictated by a corrupt government oligarchy, which doesn’t have to answer to anyone. We’re all stuck inside our homes and no one can leave or do anything about anything.

Powerlessness is very scary.

I tried listening to soothing sleep music. I tried focusing on silence, or the sound of Trixie purring on my chest. I tried and failed not to look at my phone. I couldn’t get back to sleep for hours.

At some point in the wee hours of the morning, I heard the Muslim call to prayer wafting from the mosque in Emmarentia. I’m hardly ever able to hear it — only when the breeze is blowing just so.

It’s Ramadan, I thought. That’s when I drifted off.

In the morning I decided to watch Minister Dlamini-Zuma’s speech. I listened to all 45 minutes of it, even the end part in Zulu (which I can’t understand but like the sound of). And while I still disagree and feel very scared and upset about what’s happening, listening to the speech calmed me.

The minister brought up a few points I hadn’t considered, like that rolling and sharing handmade cigarettes can quickly spread the virus. (Again, I’m not saying I agree with this. It’s just something I hadn’t thought of. Also I’m very fortunate not to be addicted to nicotine and can’t speak on behalf of those who are.) She really didn’t explain the rationale behind the exercise rules but oh well.

Yes, it’s almost certainly true that various members of the government have unethical intentions and are using this crisis to their advantage. This behavior is most certainly happening in nearly every country in the world, except maybe Iceland or New Zealand. (Don’t even get me started about America.) It’s all fucking terrifying.

But I feel a bit better after informing myself in a simple, logical way. It helps me to think about what I can and can’t control. Right now I can’t control much.

Tomorrow I’ll be out on the street at 7 a.m., shivering, walking within a five-kilometer radius with my mask on and waving to the neighbors. Hope to see you out there.

More flowers because they’re all I have in the way of photographs right now.

Today’s Worthy Cause

It’s the end of the month. If you’re able to, please pay your domestic workers, gardeners, babysitters, personal trainers, hairdressers, barbers, nail technicians, and all the others you normally depend on for these valuable services. They’re not able to work right now but they still need to eat.


  1. Keith

    Furthering one’s own economic advancement at the expense of others in this crisis should result in lifetime imprisonment.

  2. eremophila

    Just be careful exercising with the f/+#= mask on as it will restrict your oxygen intake.
    Love the macro shot, delightful soft.

    • 2summers

      Thanks! Yeah I’m pretty sure I can’t run with a mask on. Will just walk outside, and keep running laps around the house…

  3. dizzylexa

    Yes I was beginning to have hope for our Government and the way they were handling this, but I’m now back to square one – I’ve lost that little bit of hope I had. Do they know that a rolled joint is passed around way more than a cigarette, that the tax on the sale of cigarettes can help pay off this enormous debt they have incurred. A smoker will find a way to get their hands on cigarettes and the black market guys are smiling all the way to the bank. This is only one of my bitches for now. Have fun on the road tomorrow, hope it’s not to crowded.

    • 2summers

      Yep, yes to all that.

  4. violetonlineisonline

    Great blog.
    So funny because I watched the speech and then like you continued watching when she was speaking in Zulu (xhosa??) starting blankly at the screen not understanding a thing but still staring. like WHY. like a stupid fucking lemming, maybe she would tell us what to do next.
    also it is so cold at 6.30 am, THIS IS JUST STUPID.
    i haven’t smoked for 25 years but I want a cigarette right now.
    Last – I also heard the call at 5 am, so beautiful!!
    See you on the streets.

    • 2summers

      Hahahaha. Strangely I’ve been craving cigarettes lately too. I normally smoke one every six months or so.

  5. David Bristow

    And, did you know that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is the government king, or queen, pin in a massive illegal cigarette empire. Which is one of the reasons she and her other Zumarites are dead keen to bring down the top brass of SARS, which has been trying to get these guys, as they did with Al Capone, on unpaid taxes (former disgraced SARS boss Tom Moyane was put in place by Jacob Zuma to stall all investigations into illegal tobacco trade and some other bad stuff). Politics, whew!

    • 2summers

      Didn’t know this until last night but yes, I’ve read the articles now.

  6. catji

    I have now begun to enter into severe depression. Worse.
    Suddenly i relate to how some people feel to smash into liquor stores.
    Her claim, if i can even call it that, of scientific evidence, is bullshit.

  7. Stephanie

    Yes to all of this. I’m not liking being controlled. I don’t have answers and I don’t know what the best solution is to any of this.

    I look at how we’ve managed to lower the death rate in SA by limiting our movement — the murder and car accident rates have gone down but then wonder what is really going on out there outside of my bubble. I see photos of huge queues of people trying to get food and not practicing social distancing so really what’s the point of even having half of us do it?

    You didn’t mention this (with good reason as it isn’t applicable to your life) — but the way that they want to phase in school is also so freaking LUDICROUS that I am losing faith every day. My kids are at a private school and carrying on as “normal” right now online — they haven’t lost a day nor do they have to follow the government’s schedule but to phase in school over 2 months is a logistical nightmare for a parent and silly for teachers too. What if you are a teacher but have nowhere to put your kid as they are in the latter phased in grade in two months?

    The whole 6-9 am exercise thing is just plain stupid. I hate to “look a gift horse in the mouth” — I’m happy that I can walk and run but the time constraint is just plain silly — and dangerous! To have people out when it is dark and when people are commuting is just silly. Maybe they want that pedestrian homicide rate to increase again? (sorry, excuse my cynicism.) I’d love to let my kids go for a walk and run in the afternoon. They start school at 7:30 and I work until 7:00 so going out for us is a bit difficult..

    Holding thumbs that normalcy returns a bit and that someone in government sees the light.

    Soon the government is going to need some of those cigarette and alcohol taxes and VAT items to go on sale…

    • 2summers

      Yeah I didn’t want to weigh in on the school thing – it was too confusing to me! But yes it’s all very messy and non-sensical.

  8. Margaret Urban

    So much is now getting horrible and confusing … I’m part horror and part disbelief
    On a personal level my daily walk is usually my sanity saver; it’s the one thing I’ve really really missed during the lockdown.
    To get up for morning walks is not at all to my liking, even beyond the stupidity of the timing in the winter and coinciding with morning commutes.
    I’m not a morning person; since formal retirement I usually get up around 8 and spend about 45 minutes doing various exercises, especially for my scoliosis.
    Now I will try to get up at 7 or 7:30 at least three days a week and skip half my usual exercises on those days in order to walk… sigh ….

    • 2summers

      Yes that part is soooooo stupid and annoying. No point whatsoever.

  9. Catrina

    Oh dear. Not very clever decisions.
    If it’s any consolation to you, even our very level-headed, cautious Swiss government has made decisions that were not thought through and which they had to retract (e.g. hugging kids is ok, now research shows it’s not ok, masks don’t protect, now they do, etc.)
    I hope you’ll enjoy your walk tomorrow! ????

    • 2summers

      No one knows what the hell is going on. I must say though, I think if I had a kid I would still hug her!

  10. Arthur

    I too think that the hours chosen for exercise are of the wrong duration and time. And debatable whether there needs to be a specific period. Especially when there is also a “curfew” period. But just a clarification. This relaxation from level 5 does not affect walking to buy food or medication. That can still be done during the rest of the day.

    • 2summers

      Yeah, I do understand that. I just feel like these rules could open to door for police/military to harass people who are out walking for viable reasons at different times of the day.

  11. Arthur

    I keep my latest Metro invoice with me, as proof of residence. And my live-in housekeeper (albeit now only part-time for me) has a letter from me with here when she goes to the shops.

  12. Rosemary

    Your Lockdown Journal is invaluable- thank you! In the UK the science/evidence is also changing every 5 minutes. The Kiwis have done really well but even they can’t keep their borders closed forever. This thing is bigger than any of us…A lot of people in the the UK are drinking their way through it- apparently the whole of Scotland is drunk! As an ICU nurse it is not difficult to glean that the people who get hit by this virus are those that don’t watch their health (overweight – high blood pressure etc). Don’t get the exercise restrictions either but here we are allowed out for an hour of exercise but it has been extremely difficult to control- lots of fines being handed out. Sterkte as they say…

    • 2summers

      Thanks Rosemary. Wow, are you an ICU nurse? That’s a tough job.

      • Rosemary

        Yes that is true although some of us are finding the heavy emotion and sentiment a little OTT. As an ICU rep said on TV we are not angels, heroes, ethereal beings- just human beings doing a job (that we are lucky to have). Also true that ~100 health professionals (including many doctors) have lost their lives through COVID at work. I work in Paediatric ICU and it seems the first kids are coming through. We have an 11 year old on a ventilator and ECMO. Challenging times…the mask and face shield especially so but we will just have to get used to it. We might have 5 years of this thing rumbling on before ‘normal’ feels restored.

        • 2summers

          Ahhhh, that’s so sad 🙁

  13. AutumnAshbough

    Wow. That exercise rule would work for me, but I’ve noticed most people are sleeping in during lockdown. Bummer.

    • 2summers

      Yeah it sucks, especially for people in the parts of the country where it’s dark for the first half (or more) of those three hours. It’s actually very dangerous.

  14. Russell Pollitt SJ

    Great post Heather. Can’t say I did not feel the same and it also went round and round in my head. There are now more question than answers and you do get the feeling that the ANC factions are now exploiting this as hard as they can. I saw a report that the country has lost R1,5billion in revenue re smokes and drinks. And people are making a ton of money on the black market. It is pretty depressing. I also did not know the virus took a nap between 6-9am – so you get everyone out on the streets when its dark (and unsafe) and cold as seasons change (which means you could get sick), crazy! There is no logic so maybe we shouldn’t think there is. It’s muscle flexing… The only thought I have to offer is that maybe they changed their minds on the smoking ban because the got vibrators instead of ventilators… 🙁 Sorry…

    • 2summers

      Haha! Yeah there’s really no point in trying to come up with any logic. Although suddenly it just occurred to me maybe they intentionally chose the worst exercise times, assuming people will just stay in bed and not go out at all. Which is quite plausible in my case ????

  15. Lani

    I have a feeling that May is going to be filled with false starts, hopes, backtracking and baby steps forward. It’s going to call for some deep patience! Hang in there, everyone!


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