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Dark side of a rainbow nation

28 July 2014, 17:00

By Nomfundo Mlaba

Walks on the beach aren’t really my cup of tea, but for some odd reason I decided to take one along the Durban south beach shore. The walk felt refreshing and calming, like a yoga session.

It was only up until a group of what seemed like street kids approached me. If you’ve ever been mugged I’m sure you understand the terror I was going through. Surprisingly, they just wanted to ‘sit and talk”. The stories they shared were rather heart-warming yet gut wrenching.

To find out that twenty years into democracy, ‘born-frees’ that have the potential to run this country have been neglected to icy winter nights on the streets of South Africa to fend for themselves, crime being their only way of survival.

Twenty-five year old Mnyetsi* has spent over half a decade of the twenty years into democracy being a prisoner of poverty and homelessness, developing thick skin and living life as if he’s in the wild. “Life on the streets is survival of the fittest, it’s either you’re the predator or you become the prey.” Said Mnyetsi* as he took me through the dark unfortunate events of what he believes is a cursed life.

Among his friends, Mnyetsi has become a hero because he has been on the streets for 14years. This literally means that he has spent 14 winter seasons sleeping on cardboard on the side of the road. Although they share a common story of losing both parents at a young age, then fostered by relatives that are usually abusive and they resort to street life as a “better life’ – but, is it really a better life. After going days on end on an empty stomach, how can rummaging through dust bins for food be a better life.

Can we really blame them for all the criminal offences they commit? I mean, if you spent 5 110 nights tossing and turning on hard concrete, the grumbling sounds of an empty stomach as a lullaby, would even think twice before sprinting away with a Samsung S4 that could finance your meals for the next two months.

According to Adolescence Summer 1996 Street Children in South Africa Findings from interviews on the background of street children in Pretoria, South Africa by Johann Le Roux, a vast majority of an estimated 9,000 street children in South Africa are black, which means that there are virtually no white street children in South Africa. Do these statistics now make the “street kid situation” a race issue?

As a privileged born free of South Africa, I am deeply agonised to see how much we as the privileged youth don’t appreciate the simple things in life. Especially the black youth, because we are the ones that are forever moaning and striking for luxuries when we can just appreciate the gift of sitting on a desk with a pen and paper to architect bright futures for ourselves.

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