Living in a place with no name

2011-03-19 18:45

A R952-million state-of-the-art prison adorns the outskirts of the Northern Cape capital, Kimberley.

Complete with sports fields, art, educational, vocational and health facilities, the New Kimberley Correctional Centre is a real showpiece. Even its 8km sewer line is something to be a bit jealous of.

But just a few kilometres away, apartheid’s bucket toilets still line the corners of red Kalahari dust plots where corrugated iron shanties are neatly packed in a row.

One bucket toilet per two households, and even then, the Sol Plaatje municipality will sometimes not collect the buckets for weeks, says Jennefir Jonas (39).

She has been living in this place with no name for 14 months now. Just across a small veld, the brick homes of Phomolong in Galeshewe are visible.

Along with her neighbours, Jonas was moved from Phomolong, “placed here” by the municipality in the open veld with no services because their shanties “bring down the property value” of the brick-home owners.

They are waiting here for their RDP houses to be built.

It has become a long wait, with some residents having been here more than three years with no property rights, only two water taps per street for more than 10 households and no electricity.

The place with no name has become their home, but being permanently in transit also means they cannot settle.

And the prospect of ever owning their own homes is slipping away election after election.

“I do not mind living in a shanty, but I want to know it is my place. We need water, toilets and electricity,” says Jonas as she contemplates who she is going to vote for in the local government elections on May 18.

“I can’t cement my floor. I can’t do anything. Maybe now after 16 years of the ANC (in power), another party can do something for us.”

Her neighbour, Prudence Mahadika (30), is not convinced that voting will change anything and has not bothered to register.

Despite having a matric certificate and some computer skills, she has been unable to find a job. She is also not convinced that voting for any other party will make a difference.

Says Mahadika: “They (political parties) have not convinced me that they will do something better.

Voting will only mean an increase in their salaries, and that’s why I’m not going to vote.”

In another shantytown, ironically dubbed Transit Camp, Agnes Andrews is washing clothes in a bathtub while Patricia Solane keeps her company.

They too do not mind living in a corrugated iron shanty, but running water, electricity and toilets are what they keep on praying for despite “all the empty promises” that have been made.

Just down the road, security guard Kenneth Pompier, one of the few who are employed, works around his home.

“We dug our own toilets here.

Every time before a vote, we are promised that toilets will be erected,” says Pompier.

“It is all election promises again.

But now I’m sceptical. For me, all political parties look the same.

If the ANC can’t do it, no one else can.

They do have the money, though, but I think the money is only for them (the politicians) and their tjommies (friends).”

George Mokgoro, Fila Mathabatha and Kenneth Shabela do not have “friends in high places” who can help them with jobs.

“People at the municipality just look after their maatjies (mates). Just like that,” Mokgoro says, clicking his fingers.

“You see, maatjies get jobs.”

He describes the election process with a smile curling up the left side of his face: “It’s all about self-enrichment, you see.

“People living in your community will stand to become councillors and ask you to vote for them, making all kinds of promises of what they will do for the community.

“Then, when they get elected, they move away from the community to their new fancy houses, buy cars and forget about ‘their’ people.”

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