Living in a ghost town…

Entrepreneur Jamie Wyngaardt works on his balcony during lockdown.

Residents who a moved to the city centre for convenience now find themselves in a ghost town due to the national lockdown, which has been extended until the end of April.

Although the city is not as busy as it usually is, some residents in apartment blocks in the area have been making the most of their time indoors, and learning new skills to keep themselves busy.

Entrepreneur Jamie Wyngaadt, who lives in Buitenkant Street, said he moved to the city centre because everything was close by.

He said he was in a central space to meet his clients, however, now that the CBD is empty, his business mind is working overtime.

Mr Wyngaardt is a managing director of concept development company The Agency, which helps small businesses with groundwork for their business before they start up.

While working from home was always an option, he said he gets more work done during the lockdown.

“There is more time to ponder on ideas and come up with concepts that can help small businesses, especially in this time when everyone realises they need to hustle.”

Even though he sometimes works from his bed, in his pyjamas, surrounded by snacks, Mr Wyngaardt said the lockdown had helped him think of innovative ways to conduct not only his own business, but those of his clients as well.

“Meetings are all online and cut short, so people can now start broadening their horizons, and not sell things only in their communities, but further away. Because everything is online, people can network anywhere in the world.

“There are different ways of conducting business – we are trying to get around physical things, so we use web series, video interviews and social media optimisation. The lockdown has forced me to come up with fresh ideas on how to do business.”

On the rare occasion that Mr Wyngaardt is not working, he watches series to pass the time. He has also learnt how to cook during lockdown, and baked bread for the first time.

Mr Wyngaardt said: “It’s not all gloomy because of coronavirus. In every bad situation, there is good. For one, these conditions had brought about many opportunities for me.”

He said the many corporate staff working from home, shows it can be done.

“Maybe I don’t even have to live in the city centre anymore. I could live far away and still do things remotely.”

He said there were few people occupying the building he lives in, as almost all the flats were let out through Airbnb, and due to the travel bans, no one had been visiting the country.

Sumia Levy, who lives in an apartment in Wale Street, said life in the city centre came to an unfamiliar standstill during lockdown.

“We moved to the CBD two years ago because of my husband and I both work in town and our daughter attends school in Sea Point. We love the city life, and have always dreamed of living near to the Company’s Garden, and now it’s is my backyard.”

She said while she got used to the city’s quiet time after everyone leaves work to go home, she had never seen St George’s Mall without the buskers singing and doing their African inspired dancers for tourists.

“Green Market Square Market is one of the livest hubs in Cape Town. I am so used to seeing traders push and lug their carts loaded with trinkets to the square for their daily setup – now it’s empty and it’s a sight I didn’t expect to ever see in my life.”

Ms Levy works in the hospitality industry, which had come to a standstill due to the lockdown, so she is unable to work. Her husband is an essential worker.

Her 8-year-old daughter is home-schooled and keeps in touch with her classmates via Zoom calls. “She’s the only child, so Zoom calls with family are keeping us all sane. We are teaching her about cooking, we are taking out the old photos and having conversations that we never thought we would.

“I have had to embrace my role as a supportive mom and wife . These days I focus on the needs of my family. We cook, bake, watch movies and family shows to fill our days. We have family game time, which brings back certain nostalgic feelings with snakes and ladders, Ludo and playing cards.

“I have never been closer to my family, I speak more to my parents now via video calls and there is some closeness in the distance.”

And now that Ms Levy has more time in her days, she has decided to explore cooking more.

“I’ve tried out some old recipes from the Cape Malay Boeka Treats recipe book, and I’ve also found myself enjoying writing again. I haven’t blogged in forever, but I am enjoying the act of exploring my inner word smith.”

She also dusted off calligraphy pens she bought on a trip to Japan a while back, and started dabbling in the writing art.

Ms Levy said she and her husband celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in the days leading up to the lockdown, and ended up spending family time without the bells and whistles of spending huge amounts of money.

“Instead, we focused on what a marriage is all about – for better or worse, thick and thin, with world pandemics, and more – we are still standing.”

She added that Ramadaan is around the corner, so it will be a different experience for Muslims. Ms Levy said although the lockdown wasn’t all sunshine and roses, she said people should use the experience to realise that certain things in life are unnecessary.

“We can never go back to ‘normal’ – it’s new normal now. You realise that all those meetings can be done via calls, and we understand the importance of family, so much that we are considering moving closer to our family and to the suburbs.”

And while she misses taking walks and spending time outdoors, she is embracing the peace – for now.

Parliament worker and minister Nosiphiwo Mtimkulu, who lives in St George’s Mall, said her faith is getting her through the lockdown.

Ms Mtimkulu has been working from home, and said she had only been out of her apartment twice to get food and other essential items.

“While the building itself is peaceful, quietness around the city is very strange and boring. We don’t get to see the beauty of the city now anymore. Both during the day or at night, especially since my room is in the centre of the building with no view.”

She said working from home had been a major adjustment, with deadlines to be met under poor network coverage conditions and she often has to work until late at night.

“The second week of April was Easter, and my church has an online WhatsApp prayer group. That kept me busy, as I had two slots to lead the prayer group for the week.”

Ms Mtimkulu is on her own during lockdown, but keeps in touch with her family and friends everyday.

“I pray for them and keep them motivated through messages. My quarantine buddies are on WhatsApp and Facebook.”

She has also been more mindful of her eating habits, and learnt a lot of self discipline during her down time. However, Ms Mtimkulu misses the early morning walks around the city, the late night shopping at the V&A Waterfront, and Ocean Basket’s seafood platter, she joked.

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