30-YEAR-OLD taxi driver Jameson Phiri says Covid-19 restrictions affected him so much financially and psychologically that he even considered joining satanism so that he could manage to provide for his family.

In an interview, Phiri said when schools were closed, his stream of income was badly hit as he would make only K50 on some days and absolutely nothing on other days.

“First of all, Covid really affected me badly during the lockdown period. Because as a taxi driver, I survive on the trips I make, which is picking up the kids from school and taking people for work. So during the period for the lockdown, schools were closed, most people were sent home, they were working from home, you can just imagine, survival was very hard. Worse of it, the car I’m using is not mine, just to make a weekly payment it was hectic, it was something else. Just to make ends meet it was also something else. In a day, you would find that you only make a K50 sometimes nothing, you just go back home without anything, going home with empty pockets, no fuel in the car, even just food at home, what I can say is, it was survival of the fittest. Everything was just bad,” he said.

“Covid affected me psychologically to the extent where, when I look at my kids home, the things we used to have and the food we used to eat, you will find that they keep on crying and then you can’t afford to buy the things you used to buy, so I started of thinking of maybe joining satanism, so that I can provide for my family or maybe I should just take my life, and then when I thought of taking my life, I thought for my kids, if I take my life how will my kids survive? It will be worse for them, they will become street kids. I was in a confused state where I was thinking of a lot of things at the same time, in that I used to get confused. I used to ask myself why life is like this, you know being in that situation it’s very hard, you will ask yourself so many questions. Sometimes you might think, today let me not go for work because even if I go for work, it’s something else. So I was disturbed psychologically, I had a lot of questions, thinking of committing suicide, you can just imagine when a person starts thinking of such things.”

He said the lockdown period was harsh on him because unlike other people, he didn’t have any investments to rely on.

“I had to ask my boss to reduce cash in at least from K600 to at least K400, she understood that things were tough but she told me that once things go back to normal the cash in will also go back to normal. At that point I thought maybe I should just leave the car and get it maybe after Covid stabilise but again, I said to myself, if I leave the car, that means it will be the end of me, so let me just continue to work in as much as I make a K50 per day, there are some days maybe, I would try and if I get to be lucky, I will make a K150 at least, I will be able to survive on that but if I leave the car, it will be something else, so I’m better off working,’ he said.

“It was a very bad experience. I have never experienced that experience in my entire life. That was the first time and you can imagine for a taxi driver passing through such an experience, I survive on hand to month. I don’t have a big bank account when they say, today it’s a lockdown everyone has to be home and not working and then I will be living off my investment, I don’t have any investment. Yes, we survive from hand to mouth. So my survival depends on how I work on a daily basis so if I stay home just a day without working, hunger will kill me and my family. That was the worst experience I experienced during the lockdown, feeling like if I die today, it will be even much better.”

Phiri, however, said sometimes his clients would send him to buy groceries on their behalf because they were scared of getting sick and that helped sustain him for a while.

“Many people would just call you, to buy something for them because they were scared to go in public places and booking a taxi so they would rather send you and then you deliver because they were scared of contracting Covid-19, and you know, as a person who want to survive, I couldn’t refuse, I had to risk my life just so I could have some bit of money,” he said.

He recalled that clients used to be skeptical whenever they got into his taxi as they would ask him whether or not he was sick.

“So the stigma was there, you know sometimes you will find that someone will book you and then ask you driver are you okay? Are you not sick ? Do you have hand sanitizer in your car ? Because I’m scared of getting sick but I’m also human just like that person, I was also scared because I don’t know the person I’m carrying, where he/she is from? If he/she has Covid or not and you will find that, that person also is scared of me, maybe I might have Covid or not so it was that kind of a thing where by, I think you are a thief and the other person thinks I’m also I thief,” Phiri said.

“Now Covid has reduced. Business is much better compared to then, because people have gotten used to it and everyone now knows what they are dealing with and unlike that time a lot of us where scared because we never knew what we were dealing with, you know when you are dealing with something you don’t know it’s very difficult to handle or to do curtain things.”

He says although he has never tested positive for the virus, he got vaccinated because he didn’t want to die.

“Ever since Covid started, I have not tested positive but I’m vaccinated. There was a time when people were dying like rats, I felt the need of getting vaccinated because I was scared that I might be the next one die. You don’t have to contract Covid for you to realise the need of getting vaccinated,” said Phiri.