A life of struggle

2010-06-12 10:49

Poverty is going hungry and having no hope for the future.

According to poverty website cozay.com, 800 million people live in poverty and

of these, 300 million are children ­mostly in Africa.

In Mali, Senegal and Guinea, children gather along busy roads and

sing in ­exchange for small change. Cripples crawl on filthy streets swallowing

fumes and dust all day every day while they beg.

Until I started living in West Africa in 2008, I found it

impossible that a mosquito could kill. Yet, these tiny insects transmit the

malaria parasite that kills more than a million people ­globally each year.

In Tanzania, treatment costs between R22 and R85. Cheap, but out of

reach for John, a tout begging me to buy CDs for R5 so he can get treatment for

his sick daughter.

Scores of young men loiter in the capital cities looking for work

and money that “is just not there”, according to Fisherman.

He walks across Stone Town in fading ­denim shorts, a once-white

golf T-shirt and sneakers that keep falling apart at the seams holding them


Like many here, he thinks South Africa is “paradise”.

“Plenty jobs, lots of money,” he says.

Fisherman once scraped enough money together to go to Maputo, then

to South ­Africa, by scaling a border fence.

Walking hrough the night, he was

more concerned about getting caught by game wardens than being mauled to death

by wild animals.

Once in South Africa, he took menial jobs, earning about R250 a

month, more than he ever made in Zanzibar.

In South Africa, between 1998 and 2003, John wound up in Joburg

where many foreigners from East, Central and West Africa take any available


He became a barber and occasionally made R140 a day.

He saved money to buy a ticket to Cape Town, where he smuggled

himself onto a ­ship bound for Brazil , surviving seven days in the engine room

with a little water and ­glucose powder.

He was caught, jailed for a few months

and returned to Zanzibar. He still dreams of South Africa.

Some try their luck by sleeping with white women. “So business can

boom,” says one wannabe bedfellow in Dar es Salaam, who is glued to a

22-year-old European student travelling across Tanzania.

There are scores like him and countless young Africans in their

prime, flexing their abs in the hope of “catching” a ­European ­woman by making

her pregnant or marrying her to get a visa to escape their broken lives.

It has been five years since the establishment of the Africa

Progress Panel chaired by Kofi Annan.

The panel monitors the progress of the

millennium development goals ranging from halving ­extreme poverty to halting

the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015.

A report presented on Africa Day in Johannesburg this year states:

“There is no lack of resources, no deficiency of knowledge and no shortage of

plans” in this continent of “immense resources”.

Yet the lives of millions of Africans remain a struggle from the

first breath to the last.

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