Living with the dead

By Drum Digital
09 July 2014

Hlala Kwabafileyo (Living with the Dead) is the name of a real-life squatter camp that has mushroomed in the Vaal area of Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg.

Back in the 1990s, Hlala Kwabafileyo (Living with the Dead) was a TV drama series that sent many a South African child to bed with visions of ghosts and the living dead.

Now it’s the name of a real-life squatter camp that has mushroomed in the Vaal area of Sharpeville, south of Johannesburg. The area, which is populated with families living in about 200 shacks, was given this name as it’s built on a graveyard.

The residents here say they were unable to vote for a better future in the fifth national election as many don’t have identity documents (IDs) while some have given up hope of ever being given formal housing.

They say they were forced, to take the initiative and build their shacks in the graveyard, which has prompted outsiders to say it’s haunted.

But there are no ghosts and zombies here, the residents insist. Makahleho Mocelepo (49), a resident of Hlala Kwabafileyo, says building their homes here is far better than not having a home at all.

“This is all I have and life here is hard, but we don’t sleep outside so we’re grateful for that,” she says.

Makahleho says friends who don’t live in the area have asked her if some of the shacks here are haunted and whether she and her family are not afraid to live here.

“Sometimes it’s hard to dismiss these stories about ghosts – we don’t have a choice but to live here,” says Makahleho, who shares a three-room shack with her seven children aged between eight and 29 years and three grandchildren.

Makahleho’s shack has no electricity or water and each room is divided with a thin, colourful linen cloth. Near the graves is a kraal containing cows, goats and sheep: the animals stick their heads through the fence and munch on overgrown grass on the graves.

Read more in DRUM – 10 July, 2014.

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