In the impoverished settlements that ring the city of Johannesburg, people wake at 2am in order to make an important decision.
They need to pick a queue, one of dozens of queues, which form in front of community centres, schools and local charities every single day. Then, they wait to see if anyone delivers any food.
We saw these elongated chains of humanity as we drove down the roads and dirt tracks in a place called Diepsloot.
Queue members cheered and screamed when they saw my battered-looking car, mistaking our team for members of a charity or a food distribution panel.
“Since two o’clock we are here,” said Themba Mirian, who occupied a position near the front of the queue at the community hall. “The old people are here and they are starving. They just collapse because there is no food.”
“What are you feeding your children?” I asked.
“Nothing. We live in a shack. There are 10 of us in a shack. How can we do the lockdown in a shack?”
South Africa has passed the mid-point in its five-week lockdown and in communities like Diepsloot it is really starting to hurt.
Most here work in the “informal sector” – they sell goods on the roadside, guard cars or recycle waste – but residents cannot work when they have been ordered to stay indoors.
In the queue outside the local high school, a man called Alex Chauke was wildly applauded when he told me that the lockdown would get them before the coronavirus did.
“If there’s not food we have to look for food, it’s about hunger it’s not (about) corona now. We need to survive.”
The lip-curling anger that we witnessed in this impoverished township has turned into violence and looting in other parts of the country.
Dozens of shops and supermarkets have been broken into as frustrated residents take matters into their hands.
Human rights organisation Amnesty International is calling on governments in Southern Africa to offer subsidies and food provisions to the poor as a matter of urgency.
“With inequality and unemployment so high across Southern Africa, the majority of people live hand to mouth… they cannot afford to remain in lockdown for a week, let alone for a month,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s director for East and Southern Africa.
Apart from the odd patrol of soldiers, there was little evidence of the South African government at work in Diepsloot – although we did find a local charity called Afrika Tikkun with some provisions to distribute.
We made the discovery by following a kilometre-long line to their front gate. Through the fence we spotted some of the 800 bags of vegetables on offer but it was clear that hundreds of people in the queue – perhaps the majority – would go home empty-handed.
I asked the general manager, Sipho Mamize, how they were faring.
”We got the food today and we are still (telling) our partners, our sponsors, the need is still there…. we have to hustle for next week.”
“I don’t want to be the person to tell (the people outside) there is nothing left,” I said.
“Unfortunately, I have to do it,” said Mr Mamize.
In a place like Diepsloot, the ache of an empty stomach takes priority over everything else, including the coronavirus pandemic.
But that’s something residents will deal with when they have to.