Govt is allowing us to live like pigs - Kliptown residents

2015-07-01 07:30
A woman uses the tap for laundry in Kliptown, Soweto. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

A woman uses the tap for laundry in Kliptown, Soweto. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - Residents of Kliptown, Soweto, have said the South African government is allowing them to "live like pigs" by not addressing the squalid conditions they are living in.

This is the view of 38-year-old Phindi Mbolekwa, who has lived in the township with her five children for the past 15 years.

"They don't even want us to extend our shacks. I live in a one-roomed shack with my five kids. They won't let us do anything, they want us to keep living like pigs," she said.

Mbolekwa is sitting outside her neighbour’s shack chatting as other women in the area gather around a communal tap. They each take turns pouring water into buckets and bowls to wash and rinse their laundry on a Tuesday afternoon.

The corner of Future and Union streets is marked by long rows of mostly children and women's clothing hanging on the washing line. One woman is carrying an infant on her back as she leans down into her bucket rinsing and hanging more clothes on the line.

Young children play around in the open area.

Mbolekwa is one of many residents in the township who have lost confidence in the government.

Another is part-time security guard Bonginkosi Maduna. He has lived in Kliptown since 1978 when his parents moved to the area from KwaZulu-Natal.

‘They don’t come here’

"Last week we heard Zuma was around, we thought he'd come and listen to our cries. When the big wigs arrive they only go as far as the square and what bothers us is they only go to the pretty side, they don't come inside, they don't get in this far," Maduna says.

President Jacob Zuma and other top ANC members and stalwarts including Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada were at the Walter Sisulu Square on Friday celebrating the 60th anniversary of the ruling party's Freedom Charter.

Maduna and Mbolekwa did not attend the festivities at the square. They have bigger problems to deal with.

The entrance to Maduna's home is a wooden door with a fist-sized hole in it. A chain and a padlock hanging through both sides of the hole is how they keep the door locked overnight.

Along the side of the doorframe, parts of the wall have been eroded, allowing the chilly winter breeze to seep into Maduna's home.

Inside the house, a board of rusted steel hangs low into the room, a sign of where the ceiling used to be. The zinc roof above it decorated with holes he says are caused by the rain. The holes look like stars as one stands inside his dark bedroom which has nothing but a bed, and cupboard with an old TV on it.

It is difficult to sleep in a home with no insulation during winter he says, but the rainy season is much more dreadful, and it’s all he knows.

‘I’m scared to leave my girlfriend alone’

On Tuesday morning Maduna found a stranger sleeping outside his house.

"When I woke up this morning I heard noises and found a man sleeping in front of my house, on the stoep. It makes me so sad, finding a stranger on my property.

"I'm even scared to leave my girlfriend alone here sometimes because it isn't safe for her either and the worst part is that I'm a security guard, sometimes I work night and sometimes I work day shifts. She's more relaxed when I work during the day or when I'm off."

He says when he works late shifts or has to work out of town his girlfriend opts to sleep at her mother's home until he returns.

"There was a time when I was out hustling for work and I wasn't around. When I came back I found that these Nyaope addicts had stolen my gate.

"I don't know if they took it at night while people were sleeping or if they took it during the day while people were at work, I don't know. As you see it now, it's just an open space."

Maduna says the living conditions in Kliptown have only deteriorated since his parents moved to the area in 1978.

Residents in the area have to use portable toilets situated across their homes, which is in front of a main road, Future street, were people and cars are constantly passing by.

Across the road are shops and a petrol station. Further up Future street is the township's Pick n Pay supermarket.

No privacy, no dignity

"It's obviously not safe for women to use these toilets [especially] at night. When people come back from wherever they were drinking at night, they push these toilets over and in the mornings we wake up and clean up the mess and put them upright again," Maduna says.

His neighbour Lucia Ratebe, a single mother of two, says she always dreads using the portable toilets because they are basically public toilets.

"Sometimes when you use these toilets you end up getting an infection because so many of us are using them. Even passersby on the streets use them, then you use them, then you get sick. It's heartbreaking, we live in difficult conditions seriously, but where will we go?

"There are rats here that enter our homes, no matter what you try to do to keep them out they find a way in and crawl all over our things. They move from underneath those toilets, that dirty water [around the tap] and go straight into the house.

"My dad passed away living with the same conditions, I'm living under these conditions and my children are still going to live here. We still living the same life we were living back then, nothing is better," she says.

Possessions stolen

While other women walk past and greet Ratebe as they carry their buckets of laundry and water, she explains that on some occasions, even their laundry is stolen from the lines.

"They look around when they walk past here, pretending to be drinking water from the tap, then when you take your laundry down, you find some of it is missing," she says.

"Even inside our homes, if you've left to go to the shops or something and you come back and find some of your things are gone because you can see how we're living here."

Residents have resorted to making illegal electricity connections to prevent their families from living in the dark.

"We are forced to steal electricity then City Power comes and fights with us, then we ask them to install electricity for us legally then they say they can't install it in shacks because it isn't safe. So what must we do?" Portia Mosia says.

She is a mother of one and lives next to Mbolekwa.

Winter cold

Mbolekwa says since winter began she and Mosia have been using a brazier (imbaula) to keep warm outside their homes before the sun sets.

"We use the brazier outside and we huddle around it for heat. Then when it gets dark we go into our homes and sleep," she says.

"Sometimes you don't even have money to buy paraffin for the stove or a candle for the light and it gets dark. In the mornings when preparing the kids for school you have to go outside and get water, warm it up on the paraffin stove and they go to school reeking of paraffin."

Thirty-two-year-old Mosia who grew up in Kliptown her entire life says she has little faith that things will change in the area.

"We just live here because where else can we go?... There is nothing we can do until they become aware of the way they are treating us.

"Councillors here come and go, they are always changing, and they always promise us housing then nothing happens... We've been promised houses for so long, now we just nod whenever they tell us they are building them."

Read more on:    soweto  |  johannesburg  |  local government  |  service delivery

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