Fractured walls and broken dreams in Tzaneen
Parched walls with peeling plaster swathed in a network of deep cracks, hold up the roof – itself without any sign of solidity. If you thought the cracked walls were the only cause for panic about imminent danger, wait until you lower your eyes and look at the base.
The instability goes all the way down to what is supposed to support the upper structure, with unsteady walls resting uncomfortably on the severely rugged and eroded house foundation.
This is what Dina Manyiki (50) calls home. She lives in this house in Mawa Block 9 outside Tzaneen in Limpopo with her three school-going grandchildren.
“I barely get sleep in this house and my daily prayer is for no one to be home when it finally gives in and collapses,” she says as she heaves a sigh.
The plastering at the bottom has peeled, exposing the red bricks from Manyiki’s gnarled house foundation to erosion. It has rubbed away so badly that it is leaving a craggily weather-beaten space big enough for an average-size dog to curl up comfortably in the cool shade under the house.
It seems it will be a great risk for anyone to sit inside and expect it to withstand even the wind that often blows through the village. Who could sleep comfortably amid dust wafting through the heavily fractured walls or tiny droplets that find their way through the fissures when it rains, I wonder.
“Yet it keeps standing,” Manyiki says, adding that neighbours often worryingly comment that her house is near the brink of collapse. Others have stated, emphatically, that she and the kids can’t sleep in it during heavy rains and rough winds because it has weakened and won’t withstand those conditions.
Manyiki admits that she has, on many occasions, woken up her grandchildren in the middle of the night when hearing that a storm is on the way. She says they flee their home to seek refuge at a neighbouring relative’s house.
So why is she continuing to risk life and limb by returning to her house, I wondered.
“I survive on my grandchildren’s social grants,” she retorts. She says she cannot even start thinking of sparing any of that money towards building a safer house.
“I would have built myself a shack by now if I could afford it,” she says. She does not blame anyone for her situation. She used to stay with her older child in Tzaneen, but moved back home when her parents died. There was no one living in the house for some time after their deaths. The family missed out on an opportunity to apply for a state-sponsored, low-income house because there was no one to formally do so, she explains.
“My only hope is that some [officials] will pass by here, see our misery and build us an RDP house,” she laments. Her local councillor, Emelina Ramolefo, says a list of 200 potential housing beneficiaries has already been compiled by the municipality and preparations are under way to build new houses. Unfortunately, she is not sure if her name is on the list and she admits that she has not submitted any forms for housing.
The majority of people in this impoverished village are dependent on firewood collected from the forest
FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS Dina Manyiki (right) lives in this old, rickety house (left) that can collapse at any time. She is waiting for the government to build more houses in Mawa Block 9, an impoverished village outside Tzaneen, Limpopo