Traditional leaders in Zululand in rural KwaZulu-Natal are concerned about the number of people dying unexpectedly. Fears are that the coronavirus is spreading through rural areas even before people have been diagnosed.

The Zululand area has reported close to 3000 confirmed cases with 16 confirmed deaths. Esizila is a remote area in Zululand nestled between rolling hills and valleys in the Zulu Kingdom.

Alson Mncwango has raised his nine children in the area. However, tragedy struck when his eldest son died unexpectedly from what he says was flu-like symptoms.

They performed a traditional burial. However, Mncwango says after the funeral, the family received information that his son had tested positive for coronavirus.

“He had been complaining about headaches and body aches before he passed on. When he died, we fetched his body, washed him and had a ceremony. But after the funeral, the nurses informed us that my son had tested positive for coronavirus. They then tested us, all in the family to see if we had been infected and told us to isolate. Now, we are waiting for the results.”

In the video below, residents say they are struggling to access water: 

The wearing of masks is still taboo in rural Zululand and just as is the simple act of washing hands. The area does not have access to running water.

Traditional leadership says the number of people dying of COVID-19 symptoms is concerning.

Acting Traditional Leader Buthelezi says that in two days they lost 14 people in the area.

Some say a lack of water in the area also contributes to the increase in infections.

“Our people are dying. This coronavirus is killing us. We must respect the lockdown regulations. I know that COVID-19 is real. My mother died. I am begging the government to help us here in Zululand.”

Many local clinics in the area are not equipped with COVID-19 testing equipment. Traditional leaders have met families of people thought to be infected urging them to isolate. However, even this is difficult in homesteads.

There is a call for government to prioritise the Zululand District.  District Command Council COVID-19  Chairperson Thulasizwe Buthelezi says more testing facilities are needed.

Local government has called on rural communities to practice social distancing and refrain from large gatherings including mass burials. However,  as the virus continues to extend its reach,  many wonder how they will cope when it descends in the area.