UPDATE: The billboard in Orlando East in Soweto, which was vandalised over the weekend, has been targeted again. Overnight, vandals painted over the entire coronavirus message with black paint.
“It seems they came to finish what they started,” said Foshizi Research and Insights founder, Lebo Motshegoa who, with Kabelo Kale of Keys Communications, a township out of home media company, launched a self-funded COVID-19 awareness campaign in Soweto. “Could it be they didn’t have enough paint last time?”
The Media Online reported on Monday that a billboard in Orlando East in Soweto, delivering a coronavirus safety message, was defaced within 24 hours of going up.
The billboard was one of five created and designed by Motshegoa, in a CSI partnership with Kale of Keys Communications.
The defaced message on the billboard wall read, “Coronavirus erata di get-together, and was erected on 15 May 2020 on Masopha Street near a popular party spot in Orlando East, Soweto.
When the agency arrived to view the work the next day, they found the phrase, “erata di get-together” had been erased with paint.
“While the culprits are yet to be found, it was difficult to determine who would want to cover up a message such as this. The locals in the area said it is because the message hit home and it is bad for restaurants and taverns businesses nearby, all known for their get-togethers,” Motshegoa said in an email to The Media Online.
The billboard series carries messages about COVID-19 in different township lingos, Motshegoa explained. They can be seen outside Maponya Mall, the famous Vilakazi Street and other townships in Gauteng, and display messages such as:
- FOMO kills. Bloma eKhaya. (FOMO KILLS. STAY HOME)
- Akuna Starring for Coronavirus. There is no cure. (No one is immune from Coronavirus)
- iCoronavirus izokuthola oblome eKhoneni (Coronavirus will find you chilling at the corner)
- Coronavirus KeMashesha. One touch of saliva, you’re infected. (Coronavirus is Mr. Fast)
- 16 December diyaZwakala. Stay home so that you can be there, alive, with us. (16 December is coming, stay home so that we are together on the day)
To create the COVID-19 billboards, the partners revisited Motshegoa’s acclaimed and award-winning township lingo dictionaries as well as the recent Foshizi Township Consumer Lockdown Research released last month.
“The two key findings from the research were that many lacked a thorough understanding of how the disease spreads and secondly, the gravity of the pandemic had not yet sunk in,” the partners said.
Read more: On the ground, a township lockdown report
In order to land this message, Kale and Motshegoa decided to strategically place billboards in relevant locations and the local lingo, to raise awareness where it was needed the most.
They put their own resources and funding into rolling out these billboards across various parts of Soweto and soon to hit other townships in South Africa. They started with Gauteng as Gauteng premier David Makhura had mentioned that Soweto, Orange Farm, Alexandra, Tembisa, Shoshanguve are among the areas of concern when it comes to the rate of COVID-19 infections.
Motshegoa said they had publicised what had happened on their Facebook page, and received a storm of responses. “… It is big topic; local hot spot businesses are also condemning it while acknowledging that the message is detrimental to their hangouts,” he said.
“People can expect more hard-hitting messages that talk to the heart, about COVID-19,” Motshegoa said. “One plea from the business partners was, “We ask people not to vandalise our COVID-19 messages, we are just trying to help. We suspect it is the truth in this statement, that upsets them the most. We are products of the townships, who do business in the townships and care deeply about the lives of the people here.”
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