'How we were attacked by the river'

Four men sit on top of a shack and watch the Jukskei river, which runs dangerously close to homes after the river eroded the bank. (Ihsaan Haffejee, GroundUp)
Four men sit on top of a shack and watch the Jukskei river, which runs dangerously close to homes after the river eroded the bank. (Ihsaan Haffejee, GroundUp)

Ihsaan Haffejee, GroundUp 

Johannesburg - The informal settlement of Setswetla in Alexandra bore the brunt of the flooding.

The settlement is built along the Jukskei River, which burst its banks during the heavy rainfall last Wednesday.

It is home mainly to immigrants, many of them from Zimbabwe.

On Wednesday, 3-year-old Everite Chauke, was swept away when the branch of a tree she and her parents had climbed to escape the water snapped. She fell from her father’s grasp and into the water.

The search for her would enter its sixth day on Tuesday.

Soon after the rain stopped and the water subsided, a group of men tried to pull a car which was completed submerged in water from the mud.

Men and women tried to find their possessions. Locals estimated that about 40 homes were destroyed.

Tichaona Chikato, a 35-year-old immigrant from Zimbabwe, found one of his children’s shoes, but quickly tossed it aside after realising the other one might have been swept away with half of his home.

“It was around five in the afternoon. I was inside this house with my wife and three kids who are three, five, and seven years old. We just heard this strange sound and realised we were being attacked by the river. I grabbed my kids and took them to safety,” said a forlorn Chikato, who runs a small trucking business.

For many immigrants whose homes were destroyed, the pressing issue was the loss of their documentation.

“Food I can buy, clothes I can buy, this home I can fix. But those documents and papers I cannot," said Chikato.

He intended building a new home far away from the river.

“I cannot continue to stay here. I have lost everything.”  

A man collects some of his belongings that were not destroyed in the flood. (Ihsaan Haffejee, GroundUp)

A group of men try to salvage a car ...

... while another man looks at his destroyed one. (Ihsaan Haffajee, GroundUp)
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