'Every day is the same. Christmas or not is the same to us' - no celebrations for Kliptown's homeless

2019-12-24 06:13
 Nkosana Moloi in his new home under a pedestrian bridge

Nkosana Moloi in his new home under a pedestrian bridge (Ntwaagae Seleka)

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"I have no other home, except this bridge"

These are the words of a homeless man who lives under a railway bridge in Kliptown, Soweto.

Kliptown may be where the Freedom Charter was signed in 1955, but the streets of the township also house a number of Soweto-born homeless people.

READ | City of Cape Town's fining of homeless heading for court

Three of them who spoke to News24 said that the streets of Kliptown welcomed them after they fled their places of birth due to various issues, including drugs.

Nkosana Moloi, 40, ran away from his parental home in Rockville, Soweto, which is a stones throw away from his current home. 

He shares the place with three other men who he described as his family members.

During the day, they either make some money as car guards or collect recyclable materials to sell at a local scrapyard.

Their home is six metres away from the busy railway tracks linking Vereeniging and Johannesburg.

Nkosana Moloi

"I am aware of the dangers of living on the streets. I never thought that one day I will live under a bridge," he said.

Inside their home, which is covered with plastic material which doubles as a door and curtain, there are plastic flowers and other ornaments they picked from the streets of Kliptown, where they scavenge for recyclable materials.

READ | Pavement fines 'not new' - City of Cape Town defends its efforts to assist homeless

Underneath lie three sponges, neatly wrapped with blankets and pillows, where the four lay their heads at night.

Moloi left his parental home six years ago.

He blamed his two uncles and aunt for ill-treating him after his mother's death in 1993.

The man grew up without a father figure.

Moloi only found out three years ago that his father is living in Pretoria.

"I grew up without a father. I wish he was around when my mother died, maybe he could have taken me in and raised me to be a better man. Instead, I was raised by people who didn't love me and treated me like an animal.

"I have accepted that, as a child, I was very naughty and would steal and do wrong things. Again, I was not the only naughty child at home. My cousins too were naughty and they are still naughty. They were treated like flowers and angels. I was always blamed for their wrongdoings," he said.

'I am not going to blame anyone'

Moloi said he didn't deliberately choose to leave his home, but circumstances drove him away.

He tried to apologise for his mistakes, hoping his guardians would take him back.

"They called me a dog that deserve to live on the streets. I thought that, after my mother's death, my aunt and two uncles will be my legal guardians, but they turned against me and left me hopeless and homeless.

"I am not bitter and I am aware that some of my actions as a child growing up also contributed in me being homeless today. I am not going to blame anyone."

Nkosana Moloi

Moloi, who left school in Grade 10, said trains passing nearby help him tell the time. 

"I use trains passing here as my watch. They make noise and am getting used to their daily sound. This place is not safe, but where else should I go? The other challenges we are dealing with is water going through our house and rodents that hide here with us when it rains.

"Rodents are like family now, they don't bite us anymore. Maybe they can't eat the same meal [every] day," he said laughing.

"Life is not good here. Christmas is around the corner and it is every person's wish to spend the day with family members. For us, we have nowhere to go, but [we] will be loitering Kliptown streets looking for something to eat.

"Everyday is the same. Christmas or not is the same to us. There is no difference and we will continue living here until a miracle happens and a Samaritan donates a house to us." 

Drug addict

Moloi said he is hooked on drugs and currently suffers from a chronic illness.

"I am sick and living with a chronic sickness. I am taking daily medication and my friends are aware of my condition. I don't want to default on my treatment because I have hope that one day my life will change." 

A few streets away, the Palmer sisters sit at a corner asking for money.

Jessica, 21, and her 18-year-old sister Pamela Palmer separately ran away from their home in Chiawelo, Soweto.

Jessica claims she is hooked on tik, while Pamela is addicted to nyaope.

Jessica dropped out of school in Grade 10 and Pamela in Grade 8.

Jessica left home two years ago to live on the streets and Pamela joined her last year.

The two hang around on the streets asking for money to feed their daily cravings and keep some for food to eat.

"We were properly raised by our parents. We were never abused at home. We are the ones who chose to live on the streets. No one pushed us away. We are led here by drug addiction," says Pamela.

She hopes she will one day fulfill her dream of being a judge in the high court.

"Drugs are destroying our lives. We chose the wrong paths and are punishing ourselves," Jessica says.

"We meet good and bad people here. Some are opening their hearts to us when we ask for food and money and others label us drug addicts and thieves.

"I want to quit drugs. But, I don't think it will be easier here, because drugs are easily accessible," says Jessica.

'Where will we find drugs if we stay at home'

Pamela says another challenge they face daily is men asking for sex in exchange for drugs.

"They want to take advantage of our vulnerability. We are exposed here and men want to capitalise on that. Life is hard here and it is difficult to go back home to our parents.

"Who is willing to accept back their drug addicted children? We have embarrassed our parents," says Pamela.

The two blame drugs and lack of proper nutrition for their weight loss.

They have promised to visit their parents on Christmas Day and later in the evening they will return back to the street.

"Where will we find drugs if we stay at home?" Jessica asked. 

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  poverty
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