Internship break ends on sour note

Olwethu Maseko

Olwethu Maseko, a young chef from Philippi, returned from America in March, but instead of celebrating the end of her seven-month internship she found herself homeless in Johannesburg after spending 14 days in quarantine.

The 27-year-old told Vukani that when she arrived in South Africa before the official nationwide lockdown, on March 26, she thought she would be soon reunited with her family but she found herself stuck in Johannesburg until recently.

When she arrived back in the country, she said, she and the group she was with were quarantined in a hotel in Johannesburg.

“When we got to South Africa, they took us to this hotel which was said to be paid by the government. We never got to see the sun, we only saw it through windows, we didn’t leave the room at all. The nurses come in and out to check temperatures and serve us food in the morning and evening,” she said.

After they had been quarantined, they were told to leave the hotel, but due to the lockdown restrictions she couldn’t travel to Cape Town, so she had to find a temporary place to stay.

“I was broke and stuck in Joburg. The person I found in Joburg stayed temporarily until there was transport available, so with the little money I had, I had to make sure I buy food for the temporary place I was staying at.

“I was stuck for about two weeks,” she said.

Desperate to find a place to stay, Ms Maseko turned to Facebook to ask for help from people she didn’t know.

“I eventually turned to Facebook and wrote a letter that finally reached President Cyril Ramaphosa. In the letter, I asked the president how he is making sure that all South African have returned home safely.

“At this time, there was no transport to take me from Johannesburg to Cape Town, and I didn’t have a permit to travel.

“I decided to call a friend of mine who is from Cape Town to come fetch me, because I was panicking and so scared of getting the virus.”

Ms Maseko said the Department of Health finally reached out to her to help her get back home.

“Both the departments of Health and Tourism reached out saying that they want to help me and the rest of the group to get home, because we were in different places in Johannesburg. The following morning, the health department called me again to say we should get ready, and that is how we finally came back home, on April 24,” she said.