This is what shack life in the Karoo is like

2016-07-27 11:21
Karoo shack dwellers. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Cape Town - Juanita Abrahams* folds tiny school uniforms quickly and efficiently while her four children run in and out of her shack in their bright play clothes, squealing and laughing.

Her home is the size of a city bathroom, and is as neat as a pin, decorated with posters she scavenged. Blankets are folded and piled against a wall for later when they will sleep on the floor.

Abrahams, 26, is one of the small minority living in shacks on the outer edges of the Beaufort West suburb Mandlenkosi.

On a cold day like this, the clothes won't dry after she has washed them by hand, so she needs to get the children out of the uniforms as quickly as possible to keep them clean.

For the children there is no couch to slump on, or a fridge to stare into for a snack while mom prepares lunch.

What makes Abrahams's shack stand out from the rest is the magnificent daisy garden she has cultivated on the small patch of the Karoo she calls home.

It has an acacia sapling for dappled summer shade, and a small pine.

The town of Beaufort West has almost completely covered its households with water and electricity. The latest Stats SA community survey found that 97% of the 13 089 households there live in formal housing.

A quick drive around shows a mixture of squat face-brick houses, modest newer houses, and a mixture of government housing and older “matchbox houses” that need a facelift.

Living at home

With up to four people to a household, according to Stats SA, this means younger people are still living at home, with parents or relatives.

The unemployed single mother says she relocated to Beaufort West from Worcester, around 300km away. When asked why she relocated, she puts the uniform-folding on hold for a brief moment.

She shakes her head, as if unable to decide where to start, and goes back to her post-school routine.

Twigs crackle on the small fire outside that is warning up a pot of food for the little ones who hover their tiny hands over the flames for some warmth, then dart off again.

It is only when I ask if she is going to vote, that she breaks into a smile.

''Yes of course,'' she says.  

She is already registered. But, she won't say who will be getting her cross.

*Not her real name. 

- Find everything you need to know about the 2016 Local Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections, or download the app for iOS and Android.

Read more on: stats sa  |  cape town  |  local elections 2016