“I think acceptance is important at this moment. And also just remembering that as much as there is no assurance that it’s going to end, there is also no assurance that it is going to remain this way.”
Blaque : Welcome back to The Gospel Coalition Africa Podcast. If you are joining us for the first time today my name is Blaque Nubon and I am your host. And on the other line we have Sane who has been a guest on our Podcast before.
Blaque: And today we are just gonna be talking about I think more the economic effects of COVID-19. So, obviously the Coronavirus has hit our ground – it’s hit our streets – and a lot of people are reacting in various ways. But I think more than the virus itself we are starting to notice that there’s other effects. And one of them being on our jobs. So for those who don’t know who you are Sane, can you please tell us just briefly who you are and what you do?
Sane: Hi everybody. My name is Sanelisiwe Jobodwana. I was born in Zambia. Raised between Johannesburg and Pretoria and I am an actress living in South Africa.
Blaque: That’s pretty dope! You are not gonna be acting anytime soon!
Sane: Eish! Well not really. Because I mean I’ve got some stuff that I am doing at home. I am using this time as somewhat of a preparation. You know, so that when the time comes I am… I am ready!
Confronted by COVID-19
Blaque: Yeah. So I think let’s just start at the beginning. When did you hear about the Coronavirus. Where were you? What was happening?
Sane: Um Gee. Let me think. Well I think there had been talks about the Coronavirus here and there. And I must say I was hearing the words but I wasn’t really like… grasping what was going on. And I think at the time that I first heard about it I thought of it like Ebola. Where, yah, you know it’s a serious situation and there are people dying. But somehow I don’t think it’s gonna affect me. So I don’t actually need to think about it. You know? That’s just me being honest. I think it really just made an impact on my life when now so many people were dying and then also having a friend who is around those areas where it’s high risk. That’s when I started to engage with this.
Most of us were like “ah it’s happening far away. It’s not gonna come here.”
And then obviously with everything that has happened in South Africa – which felt like one week where everything just like shut down at the same time! You know? And then I was like “oh wow! This is like real, real!” Like I knew it was real but I was like “yah. This is like happening now.” You know? So I can say that I really engaged with it perhaps maybe like 3 weeks ago.
Blaque: Sjoe. OK. And I can safely say you are probably not the only one. A lot of us fall into that boat. Because most of us were like “ah it’s happening far away. It’s not gonna come here.”
Blaque: And I think… I mean thank God that I think our Government was more prepared. ‘Cause as things were happening they took charge immediately and kinda called everybody to order and put motions in place.
Sane: Yes! I mean I was actually shocked by it! I mean I’m shocked at how they have reacted to it. Yeah but I guess that’s another conversation together!
Impact of the Coronavirus Lockdown
Blaque: Yeah. I was saying, just for the rest of us though, ’cause we didn’t think about the effects of this thing. We just thought of the biological or medical effects only. But we just didn’t think about the social economic effects of this thing. So I think most of us were kinda ill prepared. We didn’t think that it will affect our jobs or it’s gonna affect our social gatherings. It’s not gonna affect church. We didn’t think through all those things. I don’t think so – individually.
Now we need to start changing the way we are living. Start re-thinking how we do life.
But as the government has obviously called a state of emergency, we are seeing that now we need to, OK, start changing the way we are living. Start re-thinking about how we do life. You know? And so, for you… you obviously are in the acting space.
A Day in the Life of an Actor
For somebody who doesn’t know, can you run us through what that looks like? Do you get up in the morning and go act? Do you wake up in the morning and go teach people to act? Just run us through what your career looks like.
Uncertainty is Normal
Sane: So, I think this morning I had to realise that my career looks like a COVID-19. I feel like it’s in a constant state of COVID-19. And the reason that I say that is because – when I was thinking about all the precautionary measures that the government was telling us to make – what changes we have to make and the uncertainties of the future… And how gigs are being cancelled or postponed. How income is, you know, gonna fluctuate. And maybe you will go on with income and maybe you won’t. I was like “no man! That is just like a day in the actor’s life.” In a South African artist’s life.
I am used to these type of disappointments and having contingency plans and having a plan B
I think the only thing, when I was praying in the morning, the only thing that I was panicked about was the actual virus. I wasn’t panicked about everything else because in the nature of my business I am used to these type of disappointments and having contingency plans and having a plan B. So like a day for me, a day for me would be waking up. It would be praying. And it would be asking God to first of all help me to stay in an emotionally sane place. And then it would be planning ideas that may or may not come to pass. And if they do come to pass it might not come with financial gain.
Drama is a Luxury Extra-Mural Activity
Then it would be going to my part-time job. And even that part-time job, you know, you’re hoping that it will be able to carry you. But because it’s part-time and because it has to do with arts – teaching drama at private schools – that school, it’s dependent on parents. And whether they are putting their children into drama. Because it’s actually a luxury extra-mural activity. You know what I’m saying?
So yah! My days are never… I don’t have set days because things change in my days. Some days I wake up and I learn monologues. Other days I’m at auditions. The next day somebody could call me up and say “hey! I’ve actually got voice over work for you.” So my days really belong to God. I don’t know how else to say it. But I don’t really have like a set routine. I am trying to develop that. But I think with my past and how emotionally draining this industry has been, I think this year I came in to a place where I am at the drawing board.
Adding COVID-19 Lockdown to the Mix
So some things definitely have been compromised. There were things that we had set up that were going to pay us. And that were set in stone and that we had already started. So, I knew for a fact that from now until the end of August there’s going to be some sort of flow of money coming in. And that excited me! And in fact this is the first time I have ever had such assurance – you know?
Sane: And then COVID-19 happens! So…
there was still some hope outside of COVID-19
Blaque: When you say ‘us’ who is us?
Sane: Oh! So I am a co-owner and founder of The Movement RSA which is an independent theatre company. Our speciality is bringing theatre into unconventional spaces and also making sure that the youth have access to theatre in a way that would be more comfortable for them.
Blaque: Sure. So you mentioned two things. One: you run the Movement. So could we safely say that’s a small business that you are running?
Blaque: And then on the other side you have your part-time gig which is teaching at the school. So you are obviously earning a wage from that.
Blaque: But with those two things, I love how you beautifully described that COVID-19 is just another day for you.
Blaque: Because of just how unsettling the acting industry is.
Blaque: But even with that, I think there was still some hope outside of COVID-19. You know what I mean?
Blaque: There was still some way… I mean you could leave your house. You could go and set up meetings. You could set up appointments for new business opportunities. I mean if I am not mistaken you guys were scheduled to travel to Cape Town to do some work there.
Effects of the COVID-19 Lockdown on a Small Business
Blaque: But now that you are at home and that’s cancelled none of that income is coming. I think just what are your initial… what were your initial feelings? You know what I mean? So yes, on a normal day, when COVID-19 is not there, you are still like “yo man! I need to trust the Lord!” There is still some anxiety, whatever. Did COVID-19 increase the level of anxiety? Did you feel more hopelessness? Or what were your initial feelings?
Sane: Yeah. My initial feelings… and I hate to drop her name in this, but my bestie is Lilly and she always talks about the frozen place. And that… So the frozen place, for people which don’t know, is a place where you go into where you’re just, like, frozen. You don’t touch anything, you don’t think about anything. You escape reality for a while. Like you do everything but what you are supposed to be doing. You know? And that… it’s just like a total shut down. And I think that’s what happened to me. I didn’t want to feel anything. I didn’t want to feel despair, I didn’t want to feel hopelessness, I didn’t want to feel confused. I didn’t want to feel like I’m grabbing on to control that I know I don’t have. And so I just froze.
I didn’t want to feel confused. I didn’t want to feel like I’m grabbing on to control that I know I don’t have. And so I just froze.
And in that frozen place so many things were happening. The lady from the American school, which is one of our residencies that we have at school, she called and she said “OK guys. You know you guys can’t come anymore. And we will pay you for the days that you did come.” Which means that… and that money was the money that we were going to use to go to Cape Town. So it means now that we have less money. And because of that less money we might have to now use our own reserves to add money into that.
And then there is the issue of we hadn’t yet rehearsed! So now we can’t rehearse! Because that means going into spaces like Bree taxi rank and different transports and things because we don’t have cars. You know? And then when you get to the rehearsal space how safe is that gonna be? Because the rehearsal space that we go to definitely has more than 100 people in those spaces at a time – which is the Joburg Theatre, the Market Theatre, you know? So that is put on hold.
So I think yah – it definitely took me to the frozen place. But it didn’t mean that I could stop interacting. So I was interacting from a very autopilot place. And after that what had happened is after I sent all the emails and I had conversations with everybody – because I was heading up these projects. I was producing them for this half of the year. I just literally just… I just cried. I really just cried. Because this was that year for me! This was the breaking out. Getting financial freedom! Getting debt free! You know? Really pulling it together and being that person! You know?
I feel like I am constantly breaking down!
So I did break down. I feel like I am constantly breaking down! But I’m still within that frozen space. So I am breaking down but… I don’t know. It’s almost like I am watching myself breaking down. You know? So yah.
There’s definitely anxiety but it’s almost like a smidgen more than what I experience on a daily basis. Do you know what I am saying? It’s because I realise that I am constantly in a state of anxiety. Even though I’ve got different skills and tools to suppress it, I am constantly in that space. And yeah.
Turning to Family
I literally said if I didn’t have my family. If I did not have a family home that is good, literally, I don’t know where I would be right now. I don’t know what I would be eating, I don’t know… I would probably… you know I mean I know my church would carry me. I know that. Thank God! But I wouldn’t feel as comfortable in terms of my livelihood as I do right now. Because I know I’m gonna eat. I know that I am safe, I know that I am in a home, and yah!
If I did not have a family home that is good, literally, I don’t know where I would be right now. I don’t know what I would be eating
No Safety Net in the Arts
Blaque: Sure. And I think with all of that said, just practically, so just thinking through things… So the gig that you have with the school. Is there any – I mean for somebody who is listening and they are thinking, or they are in the same situation, or they might not be in the same situation, but just to elaborate and help them understand better… Do you… is there like an insurance? When you sign a contract with them? Or it’s like “yo. If you don’t work, there is no pay?” What’s the set up?
If you don’t work, there is no pay
Sane: Yah, I think that is the most difficult part. There is no insurance. It literally is from pay-check to pay-check, from day to day, from contract to contract. So there isn’t anything stipulated in our contract that if a COVID-19 happens, or if you are sick that day, or if you are pregnant, or… you know whatever the case is, that there is some sort of reserve that you are going to get. We just don’t have that luxury.
The Economic Ripple Effect
I know that other companies and people that have more stable jobs, that are in more stable careers, have that. Yes, they will get some sort of payment at the end of the month. You know? Yah. So we don’t have that and that means that, for instance the lady that was working for me, she also now doesn’t have that security in terms of a pay-check. Because she comes in, she cleans the house, I pay her. But I can’t pay if I am unpaid. So if I don’t have work that week, she doesn’t have work that week. So it’s just become a ripple effect, you know? So we just do not have that security in South Africa and it is tough.
The lady working for me comes in, she cleans the house, I pay her. But I can’t pay if I am unpaid. So if I don’t have work that week, she doesn’t have work that week.
I know that there are some countries in the world – first world countries – where at least actors get the dole. You know they do get some sort of income at the end of the month. Like Holland and I think Ireland and possibly even like other European countries.
Blaque: I think Germany as well.
Sane: So I am OK but I know one of our group members is gonna suffer. She is definitely gonna suffer. And that means all the reserves that we have for The Movement right now automatically have to go to her.
How Can Anything be OK?
Blaque: Yeah. Sure. I mean you said something very powerful there that you are OK. Why are you OK? What reserves do you have? What practical means do you have? So if you are not gonna get income for the rest of the year from your business because you can’t travel, you can’t be in spaces where you can act. You can’t go to the schools an teach. So if I am a small business owner sitting here listening to this thing and I am like “yees. How are you OK? Because I feel like we are in the same boat. Do you have tips for me to do stuff?” You know what I mean? Do you have plans or is it purely just like “yo. I have a bunch of people looking after me.”
Sane: It’s… I’ve got a bunch of people looking after me. In fact not a bunch of people. I’ve got my mother who is taking care of me! And the only reason that she is OK is because she plans 10, 20 years ahead for times like this! So she has reserves, constantly. And she has a pension that is coming in. And although it’s tight because, you know, she is in a tight spot. She is financially in a tight spot. It’s not tight to the point where she has zero. You know? And then my parents have paid off the house.
I’ve got my mother. And the only reason that she is OK is because she plans 10, 20 years ahead for times like this!
Sane: So even if there is no electricity, even if we cannot maintain the actual home, the home will always be there. You know?
Sane: And that’s literally the only reason why I am actually OK. And I just want to make it clear that, you know, it’s not really different from everyday life. Because I’ve gotten into so many places, spots, where I was just broke! And I continue to be OK because my mother planned ahead. And it’s something which at the same time bothers me the most. That she had to plan ahead for this. Or she finds herself in this situation when I really do feel like the roles should be at least reversed at this point. You know? It isn’t something that she makes me feel bad about or anything like that. But me as myself, I genuinely wish the roles were reversed and that she could just live off me! Yeah! I think that’s what I wanna say.
So yeah and in terms of advice… I think you know the thing right now to do isn’t to constantly remind yourself of what the situation is. You know? Or wish for it to be something else.
Finding Assurance in God’s Promises
I think acceptance is important at this moment. And then also just remembering that as much as there’s no assurance that it’s going to end, there is also no assurance that it’s going to remain this way. You know? Things can change.
much as there’s no assurance that it’s going to end, there is also no assurance that it’s going to remain this way.
I personally have seen many times when God has turned around situations. Situations with health, situations financially. And there are just so many promises that God has made in terms of provision. And that he is a safe house and that he is our refuge and that he will not abandon us – in the Bible. Those are really the things that I think that people should be clinging onto at this moment. Because there isn’t anything practical that I can say to somebody that will rid them of the uncertainty. Do you know what I am saying?
Sane: There isn’t anything practical. I mean I can’t even say wear a mask or don’t touch certain – you know – whatevers! I can’t say “hey! Go out to wherever and sing for whoever so that you can get money – or act for whoever.” You know what I am saying? There’s nothing that I can actually say practically that you can do at this moment. Except for work on what you’ve always wanted to work on in your business. You know fine tune whatever you already have going on. Do the things that you wish that you could have done, but you just did not have any time to do. Get busy doing those things. Even if that means working on yourself internally. And then pray!
Do the things that you wish that you could have done, but you just did not have any time to do.
Blaque: Yeah. That’s good man. I heard somebody saying that this is a time for us to just focus on the weak areas in our businesses. So if you are struggling in terms of marketing, maybe this is the time for you to just get a marketing book and read through that. If you are struggling with, I don’t know like graphic designing or whatever! Because most small businesses, we normally wear a million hats you know what I mean?
Blaque: Like one person wears 100 hats. So it’s time for you to master all the other hats that you hadn’t had time to master. So it would be good for people to kinda do that.
Every Day Belongs to God
Blaque: But earlier on you mentioned that every day belongs to God. I thought that was a powerful statement.
Blaque: I think you can end us off with that note. What hope can we find in that? That everyday belongs to God?
Sane: You know I mean I said that statement, but I think I’ve only truly believed it now that COVID-19 has happened. I’ve believed it in dribs and drabs. You know and I think like at the core I did believe it. But I think for me, now that this has happened, what that means for me is that when I wake up I shouldn’t take anything for granted. I shouldn’t take the fact that I am able to move around without any support… You know, the fact that I am well in my body. The fact that my brain is operating in the way that it is operating, and the fact that I still have hope, you know? I don’t think that that should be taken for granted. But also I think that there needs to… I found that I need to acknowledge that everything that I am doing starts and ends with God. You know what I am saying?
I found that I need to acknowledge that everything that I am doing starts and ends with God.
Sane: And it’s made me realise what is actually important! What do I actually want to do with my time? And how is this glorifying God? I’ve literally just had that thought in my mind for the past 3 days. That because everything is so tight right now, there are certain things that I probably would have been doing that I am not doing anymore. Because I’ve realised that they’re just not as important. I think that it’s really about doing everything that God has been nudging you to do, that perhaps you haven’t been doing. But also just dedicating your days back to God. And being so sensitive to the Holy Spirit and the work of God within you. I think for me that’s the biggest thing that we can do right now.
Caring for Others
And also, this is a tough one, but trying hard not to be self-centred in this moment. You know what I am saying?
Sane: And taking into consideration the people which are probably really, really going through the most. You know? In terms of like being in you know like impoverished environments and what does that mean for them? And seeing how you can help. Even if that means literally praying about it every single day. You know or whatever the case is. But I think dedicating your days to God is really doing what you are supposed to be doing. Not just doing it because – “ah, there’s tomorrow” – or there’s this or there’s that. You know?
See how you can help. Even if that means literally praying about it every single day.
Blaque: Sure yeah. That’s good. That’ really good man. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you for being very transparent. Thank you for being open and honest. And it is in those spaces that people find hope. Find courage. Because if we can be bare like that – because we trust God – it demonstrates to others that they can trust the same God that we trust.
Blaque: So we will be praying for you. We will be praying for the next couple of months. And that you can continue believing that every day does indeed belong to God.
Sane: Thank you so much. And I will also be praying for you guys.
Blaque: Thank you so much. And so with that we just wanna wrap it up. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you very much for tuning in. Hopefully this was encouraging. We will have a lot of other episodes just reporting on what’s happening with COVID-19. And we will interview more people. I just hope that we stay connected and that we don’t feel isolated in this time. Sane thank you for that, really appreciate it.
Sane: Thank you so much Blaque.