What has be­come of Klip­town?

CityPress - - News - S’THEM­BILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

On June 26 1955 the Free­dom Char­ter is adopted in Klip­town, Soweto. The Congress of the Peo­ple is held over two days in an open space, in what was a coloured town­ship out­side Jo­han­nes­burg. On Fe­bru­ary 3 2016, 61 years later, a col­lec­tion of cramped cor­ru­gated iron frames makes up what the com­mu­nity calls home, just a stone’s throw away from the fa­mous square. A line of about 10 mo­bile toi­lets stand locked. In front of them, chil­dren play a game of jump­ing over a rivulet of a cock­tail of sewage, de­cay­ing food, bits of bro­ken beer bot­tles and what were once brightly coloured chip pack­ets.

Wel­come to part of Ward 17 in Klip­town.

Se­cu­rity and com­fort

“All peo­ple shall have the right to live where they choose, to be de­cently housed and to bring up their fam­i­lies in com­fort and se­cu­rity,” reads the Free­dom Char­ter.

“Slums shall be de­mol­ished, and new sub­urbs built where all have trans­port, roads, light­ing, play­ing fields, crèches and so­cial cen­tres.”

Out­side his shack, Samson Botha (42) sits on black crates with his wife and some friends, gam­bling. “We have three chil­dren, but they live with their grand­mother on the other side of Klip­town. I can’t keep them here; the wood is rot­ting and wa­ter comes in when it rains. I re­cy­cle scraps and bot­tles for money. Nei­ther of us is work­ing. We are gam­bling now to get some money be­cause my bot­tles got stolen.”

Botha points to the toi­lets. “You know, this thing is political, we are meant to share those toi­lets but I don’t get the key. If you are not ANC, you can’t use the toi­let. So I have to walk across the street there; at night I have to get up and walk my wife there if she needs to go be­cause it is not safe. “I’m go­ing to vote for the DA again, 100%.” Mak­ing her way to the shops, step­ping over some stub­born green­ery which has dared to grow in be­tween the stony ter­rain, is 58-year-old Sylvia Fer­nan­des. She makes the trek to the shops ev­ery day be­cause there is no elec­tric­ity, so her food does not keep.

“I can’t keep a fridge be­cause izinyoka [elec­tric­ity thieves] steal the cables. But I must make a skaftin [lunch box] for my son. He works at a fur­ni­ture shop where [his boss] pays him R400 a week.”

Last year Fer­nan­des was re­trenched from her job at a boot fac­tory. She has been wait­ing for a house since 1998, and lives here with her 30-year-old epilep­tic son.

“How long are we go­ing to sit with­out houses in Klip­town? Peo­ple have died in their shacks wait­ing for homes.

“I don’t want a man­sion, I just want a com­fort­able safe home for me and An­to­nio.”

Asked if she will vote this year, Fer­nan­des asks: “When is that vot­ing thing hap­pen­ing again?”

Un­used hous­ing space

Mak­ing his way to­wards the city is Klip­town’s “safety am­bas­sador”, Jef­frey Mokoena (48), who lives around the cor­ner. He stops to greet DA coun­cil­lor Michelle Valen­tine – as many oth­ers do through­out the af­ter­noon – be­fore check­ing in on his neigh­bour­hood. As he speaks his long, thick dread­locks, cov­ered with a red-bucket hat, swing back and forth, brush­ing his thin, high cheek­bones.

“That place around the cor­ner is called Man­dela Square, but it is an ill-fit­ting name for this place,” he says be­fore list­ing a num­ber of mur­ders in the past two weeks.

“I am a mem­ber of the rul­ing party, but vot­ing for them is ques­tion­able. We are ask­ing our­selves what they have done for us, and maybe what other par­ties can do if we give them a chance. If we an­swer that the rul­ing party has failed, then tough luck, we will move on.” Mokoena voted in 2014, but will not di­vulge who for. “I am an an­a­lyt­i­cal per­son, so I bal­anced the equa­tions and went for some­one that made more sense.”

He points out a piece of va­cant land. “We have a chal­lenge of hous­ing, but there is talk of build­ing some ware­house there.

“Th­ese red ones [the EFF] make sense, if I am hon­est. They are touch­ing on some­thing sen­si­tive hap­pen­ing in the coun­try. There are more than 550 houses that have been built up the road; they have been sit­ting there va­cant for a few years be­cause they are un­fit to live in.”

Valen­tine looks in­con­gru­ently re­gal in a pur­ple pais­ley maxi dress. The two be­long to op­pos­ing par­ties, but en­joy a good re­la­tion­ship.

Mokoena says lo­cal coun­cil­lors have of­ten been on the re­ceiv­ing end of com­mu­ni­ties’ anger.

“Be­fore, we used to at­tack coun­cil­lors for fail­ing us. It is not so. If the coun­cil­lor is not re­spected where she rep­re­sents us, we need to point fin­gers else­where.

“The MEC of hous­ing must re­spond to our is­sues – not her,” he says, ges­tur­ing to­wards Valen­tine.

“The ANC should not cam­paign with hous­ing; hous­ing is a gov­er­nance and ser­vice-de­liv­ery is­sue. It is sep­a­rate from what you tell us when you cam­paign; politi­cians must not try to fool us.

“There must be a bound­ary be­tween cam­paign­ing and de­liv­er­ing ser­vices.”

Valen­tine, who lives in nearby El­do­rado Park, laments the dire hous­ing con­di­tions, say­ing she has knocked on doors try­ing to find a so­lu­tion, but with no luck.

She was a mem­ber of the In­de­pen­dent Democrats be­fore its pres­i­dent, Pa­tri­cia de Lille, joined the DA. She is also con­fi­dent the DA will keep Ward 21 af­ter the elec­tions.

“All peo­ple shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to man­u­fac­ture and to en­ter all trades, crafts and pro­fes­sions,” reads the Free­dom Char­ter.

The av­er­age monthly in­come per house­hold in Ward 21 is R2 450 a month. Only 40% of res­i­dents are em­ployed.

Mo­hamed Ab­dul­lah (40) points out what looks like an aban­doned build­ing. Some­one lives there. “That wall fell and we got some zinc to try to hold it up,” he says.

“I am born and bred here. My dad lived here as well. The Free­dom Char­ter was made here. This is the first place that should have been up­lifted. Last week my wife was robbed in the dark of her purse and phone. My son’s shoes were taken off his feet – do you know how long we saved to get him those shoes?”

Ab­dul­lah stands sur­rounded by glass. His busi­ness is ev­ery­thing to do with glass and alu­minium.

“My shop was over there, but the metro came and shut it down. Ja, it was a mkhukhu [shack], but it was a le­gal, reg­is­tered busi­ness. Now I must re­build here, away from the street. Peo­ple are afraid to walk here, so I am los­ing money.

“I am ac­tu­ally afraid to vote. There is noth­ing that govern­ment is do­ing here, just prom­ises and prom­ises. Noth­ing is done for us small busi­ness­peo­ple try­ing to make an hon­est liv­ing.”

PHO­TOS: EL­IZ­A­BETH SE­JAKE

THE LOST COM­MU­NITY

Klip­town’s res­i­dents be­moan the di­lap­i­dated state of their neigh­bour­hood, say­ing govern­ment has for­got­ten about them

AT PLAY IN THE DE­CAY plas­tic and other trash

Chil­dren in Klip­town’s Ward 17 jump for fun over a rivulet of sewage, spoilt food,

WARD WORK Coun­cil­lor Michelle Valen­tine of the DA chats to ANC mem­ber Jef­frey Mokoena

LOS­ING HOPE Mo­hamed Ab­dul­lah and his daugh­ter. ‘Govern­ment does noth­ing here,’ he says.

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