WORKERS’ DAY UNUSUAL

“Impact of COVID-19 on Workers  Today we ‘celebrate’ Workers Day at a time when many amongst our working class are uncertain whether they will still have a job within the next few months while others have already lost their jobs.  My thoughts immediately shift to a brother in Alexandra who worries about where he is going to get medication for a chronic illness he suffers from. Then, a single mother in Tembisa who worries about where the winter clothes for her four-year-old daughter are going to come from.   Covid-19 came with some dire consequences for workers and companies alike.  I remember vividly a conversation I had with Thabo* who stays in Kempton Park.  He told me that he has been working for an airline for the last five years.  With tears rolling down his face, he shared with me how he got the shock of his life when during the lockdown he received a letter from his manager that the airline was to be placed under Voluntarily Administration due to inability to service its debts.  


Unbeknown to him at that time was that a second letter was still on its way.  It was not a love letter, far from it! This letter came after the President announced that South Africa was now entering level 4 of its Covid-19 Lockdown.  In this letter, it was stated that the April salary would be paid and he should await further communication from his company. Thabo* is not alone in this uncertainty predicament.  A number of employees have been adversely affected by this pandemic and by extension the necessary measures that Government had to take in reaction.  


I am also in touch with Nwabisa*.  She is a single mother of one and she says she has been working for a car dealership as a salesperson.  However, her remuneration has always been commission-based.  She says she had no idea how Covid-19 would drastically change her life and that of her daughter.  She thought it was something she was just going to watch on Sky News and perhaps Al Jazeera.  She never imagined that one day, Africa, let alone South Africa would have to deal with this pandemic. Sure to form, it did get the ports of South Africa and her life would take a turn.  
The months of February and March had not been particularly rosy for Nwabisa* in terms of sales.  This, in turn, had an effect on her income.  Compounded to this, when the inevitable Lockdown was announced by President Ramaphosa, Nwabisa* found herself without money even to buy groceries.  She details how it was unbearable for her as she would see images of seemingly everyone else rushing to Makro to buy and stock up groceries just before the lockdown came into effect.  


She further explained how she managed to survive the whole month of April, thanks to the generosity of her neighbors, donors as well as the Government efforts. She appreciates all the kindness she experienced. These are just two scenarios amongst quite a number that workers experienced with the advent of Covid-19.  I know it paints a dire picture but I do take solace from what I further learned from Nwabisa’s story.  The future looks bright. Humanity, the world over has survived far worse than this pandemic.” This is how Nwabisa* from Tembisa has been dealing with her new reality: 1. STUDYING AND LEARNING Nwabisa realizes that she has never allocated time to better herself in terms of learning. She found herself with quite some time to do this during the lockdown.  She has been enjoying her new journey and studying. 2. TAKING CARE OF HER PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH Nwabisa* has also decided to intentionally take care of her physical and mental health.  She is working out at home, three times a week and also watching closely her mental state at all times.  She asks for psychological assistance when needed. 3. LOOKING FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES Nwabisa* recently got an opportunity to make an income.  She is currently selling medical supplies at a commission.  She decided she was not going to wait for an opportunity to knock on her door, instead she knocked on opportunity’s door. She says she is open to new job opportunities as well as entrepreneurial ideas. 4. GIVING HERSELF A BREAK Nwabisa*also says she realized that she will not put everything together in one day. She thus takes time to relax and just meditate. 5. TAKING CARE OF RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD Nwabisa* meditates on the Bible daily and says her relationship with God just got a lot better. 6. SPENDING TIME WITH HER DAUGHTER When she talks about this, her face suddenly glows.  Nwabisa* confided that she is now enjoying more and more quality time with her daughter. Just by engaging with Thabo*, Nwabisa*, and a number of other workers, I have learned that it is not all doom and gloom.

The future looks bright.  Start again with what you have, where you are, and keep going. This too is passing.  *Not their real names. 

Trevor Mupamhadzi from Solutions is a Business and Life Coach

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