A side to Cape Town World Cup visitors won’t see

2010-06-07 08:58

Rows of grey metal shacks stretch out with military precision in

the barren sandy ground. Residents call it Blikkiesdorp (Tin Can Town).

It’s a vast, soulless temporary camp for Cape Town’s homeless and

evicted, and it has become a media spotlight ahead of the soccer World

Cup.

“This is basically like a concentration camp,” said Mohammed Ali

(38), who lives in the settlement with his wife and two daughters.

Residents accuse officials of using Blikkiesdorp as a World Cup

dumping ground for the city’s poor.

“They’re moving all those people who live on the streets to this

place for 2010. They’re basically cleaning up the roads,” said Ali.

South Africa has spent billions on new stadiums, transport systems

and a bigger police force as it prepares to host Africa’s first soccer World

Cup.

Tale of two cities

While children gleefully undergo football training on a sandy patch

near a busy road, there is little sign in Blikkiesdorp of the World Cup kickoff

on June 11.

“Why didn’t they use some of that money to build houses?” asked

community leader Beverley Jacobs (42), who is spending her third winter in one

of the camp’s 18-square-metre shacks.

Blikkiesdorp was set up as temporary emergency housing in 2008 and

has since grown to 1 500 shacks with electricity, communal toilets and water

taps.

Priscilla Ludidi shares her shack with four children and her

82-year-old mother, who sleeps on a piece of sponge on the ground.

“All the structures that we’re living in are leaking. We are four

families on one tap. We are four families on one toilet. This is so unhygienic,”

said the 44-year-old.

“They promised us it’s only three to six months until you get your

houses. They always lie.”

South Africa struggles with chronic housing shortages despite

rolling out 2.3 million new houses since the end of apartheid in 1994.

But a growing backlog of 2.1 million means 12 million people –

nearly a quarter of the population – still need homes. The number of

shantytowns, known euphemistically as informal settlements, has rocketed to 2

700 countrywide.

Cape Town, which has some of South Africa’s priciest real estate,

has a housing backlog of 400 000. There are 220 informal settlements.

Former homeless couple Rina Mina Kiwido (48) and James Adams (48)

came to Blikkiesdorp last September with the help of a social worker.

They are aware of the claims of clean-ups to sanitise the city for

foreign visitors, but are still happy with the move.

“We are off the street,” said Adams.

As foreign news crews flock to Blikkiesdorp to show a disturbingly

less glamorous Cape Town, officials deny that the city is being stripped of its

homeless.

“There’s no clean-up campaign that is happening,” said city

spokesperson Kylie Hatton.

“The area was already 80% full by the end of last year, so there is

no dramatic move towards moving people into the area in the build-up to the

World Cup.”

But in Blikkiesdorp, frustrations are high.

“We are not eager to stay here. We don’t want to stay here. This is

not home. We were forced to be here,” said Washeila Smith (57).

“We have no other option. We’re waiting on the government to sort

us out with a house, with a home. This is not home.”

 

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