Towards the end of our seemingly endless lockdown in South Africa we were asked to check the viability of filming a segment on marginalized communities and the effect the pandemic had had on them for an international news network. Fresh with a media permit that allowed us to travel between provinces, we set off for Rietfontein in the Northern Cape Province as soon as we were allowed out of the box.
What we found were numerous social issues, driven by an almost 85% unemployment rate amongst the local community which had largely been ignored by government, although election posters could still be seen around town. Alcohol abuse was prevalent and contributed to the general poverty of the surrounding areas, with the queue from the local SASSA (Welfare) office moving directly over to one of the local bottle stores once the basic payout had been received. The towns infrastructure was largely neglected, with some electricity wires lying disconnected in the streets. A community leader we had organized to meet had gone on a bender and could not be found.
The local border post between South Africa and Namibia had been closed for months and there was little sign that this would reopen soon, even after some of the Covid restrictions had been removed.
It was a pretty sad place to be.