‘Squatters skilled too’

2018-02-20 06:01
Timothy GoliathPHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

Timothy GoliathPHOTO: Nomzamo Yuku

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“I want people to see that we as squatter camp residents are skilled like everyone else,” says Timothy Goliath from Royal Road squatter camp in Maitland.

Goliath (43) has started a garden at the squatter camp, opposite Maitland High School, in an attempt to change public’s perspective about people living in squatter camps. He says it breaks his heart that they are undermined and get discriminated against for being less fortunate. He is now worried that this will be carried down to their children.

“I do not want that for my children. It hurts to be associated with all sorts of crimes and be not taken seriously. I hope by starting this garden I will make a difference­.”

Goliath is an unemployed father of three.

He has lived in informal settlements for 25 years, including this squatter camp which he say has been his home for years. He says growing up in the villages of Northern Cape, he loved gardening and helped his family to maintain their garden until he had to leave for what he thought were “greener pastures” in Cape Town.

“When I came here things did not go as I expected so I ended up living in shacks. I found piece jobs as a gardener but people were not taking me seriously because I did not have a qualification and I lived in shacks. I would work for a short time and get fired. It is difficult when you have a family looking up to you to pursue your interests. I had to settle for any job I could find so I could put bread on the table and send my children to school. Now that they are older, I realised I can still do something about my skills and I started this garden.”

He says when he lost his job as a general worker at a construction company late last year not even the drought would stop him from pursuing his interest. He resorted to starting his garden using plants that do not require lot of water to grow. These plants include Agave attenuate, Aloe arborescen, Cotyledon orbiculata, Catharanthus roseus, Gazania and Osteospermum and says he would like to add more variety of plants.

Goliath says he recycles water from his home to water his plants when necessary. “Though I love my garden and want to expand it, I am aware of the water crisis so I avoid using municipal water. Yes, it is possible to have a green garden but still not waste water. Anyone who loves gardening can try these plants, they never disappoint.”

Goliath does not have proper equipment to maintain his garden and says he does not want to sell his plants. His plan is to expand it to surround the squatter camp and make the place took beautiful despite its social challenges.

“I hope if people can see this they will start respecting and taking us seriously.” He advises other squatters within the city to start doing something positive and show society that not everyone living in such areas is untrustworthy, but are instead lacking the platform to prove their capabilities.

Resident Elton Cloete says it is amazing that Goliath took the initiative to inspire the community.

He says they did not understand his motives at the beginning, they now see his goal and have started getting involved.

Cloete says though Goliath started it on his own, community members have grown fond of the garden and have started helping out.

“It unites us and we will support him and make sure his idea grows and gets noticed,” Cloete says.V If you would like to held Goliath with gardening tools or plants phone 076 415 7124.

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