On normal days, the Company of Softers (CoS) mime artists hold court at the Mew Way off-ramp from the N2 to Khayelitsha, entertaining hundreds of taxi passengers and passing motorists with their antics and earning some money to put food on the their tables.
But since the Covid-19 pandemic started wreaking havoc across the globe, posing a deadly threat to life as we know it, the government introduced a national lockdown to prevent its spread.
This, however, has had adverse consequences for street performers such as the CoS mime artists and many others.
The performers, who are all painted white and snazzily dressed, stand at the intersection and enthrall passing motorists, moving dramatically before coming to a dead stop and only moving again once a coin has been dropped in their collection tins.
CoS leader John Moyo, who hails from Zimbabwe, told Vukani that before the lockdown, his crew had been taking home about R500 in a good week.
“People coming from work are stressed and tired, and when they see us, they relax a bit. Those who appreciate what we do open windows and throw money at our tins. They really love to see us.”
The crew comprises seven members who live in Mfuleni, Bardale and Driftsands, but they meet near the intersection to plan their daily routine.
Mr Moyo said they were often invited to perform at events over weekends, but most of their income came from performing at the Mew Way intersection.
“We go home satisfied because we have put smile on the faces of the people.”
Wendy Ndlovu, one of the two female crew members, said people had been shocked when they started seeing them at the corner.
“They looked at us strangely, but, as time went on, they understood we were performing for them, and they started supporting us slowly.”
Ms Ndlovu said she was happy about how people responded to them.
“Others stop to take selfies with us, and they want to know more about this form of art.”
Vanessa Ncube said it was better than expecting other people to “give them food on plates” because they were earning it. “There is a lot involved here. When w e wake up, we plan on what we wear and what paint we use, but the moves come naturally, we don’t rehearse them,” she said.
Their presence at the Mew Way intersection was earning them some money that went a long way to paying their rent and buying much needed groceries, but now with the lockdown things were tough, they said.
But, said Mr Moyo: “The situation will pass and our supporters will see us again at the same spot when life returns to normal.”
He urged the people to obey lockdown rules announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa because this is “for our good ultimately”.
Vukani reader Cliffy Mago, drew the ire of well-known artist and entrepreneur Zuko Vanyaza when, in a letter to the editor (“True charity involves being proactive,” February 27), he described what CoS was doing as “illegal activity at intersections that have become little misdemeanours that law enforcement officials and the public turn a blind eye to”, adding that “because of the lack of jobs and a general disregard for law and order, those who are seen to be disadvantaged are pitied and given leeway to do things they shouldn’t do”.
An outraged Mr Vabaza called Mr Mago “heartless” and wrote that: “What your reader (expressed) was sheer ignorance. You go overseas you see artists busking in the streets.” It was this that prompted Vukani to go out and speak to the members of CoS.