What waste looks like: ‘The life we live’

2013-11-24 14:00

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Thakampe Makwala sits on the dirty streets of Alexandra township’s 7th Avenue watching children play.

The 57-year-old woman still lives in the 16m² shack built in 1994 when she moved to Johannesburg for a better life for herself and her six children.

Although Makwala has been on the waiting list for an RDP house since 1996, she and her family still live in the shack.

She was placed on the waiting list another three times after officials came to visit the family to assess their situation.

Makwala has vowed not to vote in the upcoming election.

“I’ve done everything the government has told me to do.

“I voted in 2009, I registered on the housing list, I let them count me in the census, but I still have nothing.

“Nothing!” she exclaims, wedging a filthy old jacket under her door to prevent rats from coming in.

“If they want to eat all the money themselves, they must not ask for my vote again,” she says of the nearly R30 billion which the Auditor-General found that national and provincial government departments wasted last year.

“I live here with my six children. Four of the boys sleep on the bed, and two of my children and I sleep on the floor. The girls feel uncomfortable changing in front of the boys. But there is nothing they can do.”

It is difficult to imagine the bedtime scene, as two steps of frayed, mouldy carpet lies between the bed and the two-burner stove used to cook and boil water. They boil water for tea in a tin.

When the rain comes, the family has to shift all their belongings on to the bed. And nobody sleeps that night because there is no space.

“We’ve lived here for years. It is disgusting, but we try our best.

“We all try to get piece jobs and we live as best we can,” she says.

Each morning, Makwala wakes up early, boils water in the tin and stands outside to wash herself.

Between her shack and that of her neighbours is a tiny alley closed off from the street by a rickety door and this is where she washes.

But for her, living in a shack the size of a bathroom is better than walking to their communal bucket toilet at night, weaving between the other shacks to get there.

“But what can we do? If I have to go, I have to.

“This is just the life we live,” she says.

Waste not, want not

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