At one time, it was a rubbish dump, a place where people discarded rubbish. Useless and obsolete objects in their homes and lives that were no longer of any use to them. Broken goods discarded because it became a source of shame.
Now its people that have been abandoned on this rubbish dump. Elderly men with wrinkled hands. Children with big eyes … only eyes with no expression. Children who look at what they see, because things around this place are just there, and has no use or meaning.
A man sitting in a tin shack, which from a distance looks like a typical doghouse on a farm stand, but for this man is a form of shelter. Recently the man was operated on for a hernia and the 13cm long, 5cm wide wound is open. The smell emanating from the infection of septicemia is unbearable. “Did you bring me patches?” He asks. The old man walking beside me said, “I’ll give him another week, it’s the fifth person this year. The wounds become septic and they die, I have witnessed so many.”
Not far away in another tin shelter, live two elderly 70 year-olds who left behind a life of security and dignity. While he lived in Zimbabwe, he was considered a wealthy man and worked as a plumber. He was driven off his land and could not get assistance in South Africa, now forced into a squatter camp, his only place of survival. His wife cannot walk, just lays down while, suffering from fermenting wounds on the bottom of both her feet. Clinic sisters will not visit this forsaken place. It’s a struggle; the woman needs support to get her into a taxi that can take her to a government hospital.
The clinic sisters are not the only ones who choose not to visit this dreadful place. Pointing to another tin shack the man said, “The woman over there, her husband died a while back, the ministers did not want to come here and help. We had to ask a black pastor who works in a field church to help assist with a burial.”
People do not come here. People do not go to visit a “scrap heap of souls”.
Between the stones a bunch of kids play, it’s a hopeless game, a game without purpose or reason. They do not understand basic skills, and when some children learn to count from their mothers who would say, “go get me 3 eggs” or “quickly run to a cafe with this R20 note and buy a loaf of bread. Check that you receive the correct change, “the others do not know. For in this place, it is seldom that you get three eggs and to hold a twenty-rand note, it is a fortune that they do not know. The only point of this little game is to make them tired so that they can go and sleep.
The children usually speak Afrikaans while playing their game and it is as though the words they utter are not of this rotten earth. It is not a language that you want to hear upon a dunghill. There is no shade, no trees or shrubs, no fertile soil for vegetables, no water. It’s just the gleaming white sun above them that they observe. Yet they play … It’s the eyes that speak volumes. Large dark pools of blue expectation of which they cannot identify.
This is the contradiction, the hard diversity of realities that hits one the deepest when you walk into this place. The inferior huts that are painfully neat and tidy with the handwritten notice on the door: “Knock before you enter”. Not because there is something to hide – because in rubbish dump of human decay nothing can be hidden. Nevertheless, it is the last bit of self-respect and self-esteem there is.
In contrast, the loss, shame, and self-respect, is most visible to the children. There are three boys, two with blond hair, and probably brothers, and a dark haired child with a crown and scattered freckles. The three boys scratch in the bin behind the black family’s shack. They do it every morning…
In front of one of the shelters is an unsteady wooden bench and a little girl is sitting there. The curls of her light brown hair cling to her face and into her neck. Maybe she is three or perhaps six years old. Children do not develop normally stuck in a place like this. Most of the children are older than they appear to be. The little girl is filthy, probably a few days dirt clinging to her body. She coughs as she calls for her mother. “Her mother left here with the Nigerians and will return with food for the baby tonight,” said the old man walking beside me.
Tonight when the mother returns, she will walk over to the clustered shacks and RDP houses where the black people of this place live. At least they have water and toilets. She will beg for a bowl of water to wash off the stench from abusing her body. Everybody is doing it, because running water and toilets promised three years ago, were never delivered. The white people all go and beg for water to drink and wash from the black shantytown.
The mother will try to clean her body but not the festering ulcer on her mind, there is no cure, it is permanently etched into her mind. The man will die from his wound and the black pastor will bury him near the ashes. He will not be remembered. The little girl who might turn four, or five or six next year does not know what fate beholds her, or how long it will be before the Nigerians rape her or lure her into their prostitution ring. Simply because there is no one who can stop this worsening situation.
A person will never return to a rubbish dump to see what he threw away. Perhaps that is the most terrible condemnation of all; nobody comes here to find out what happened to his brothers or sisters that were thrown away.
I know my colleagues; we have worked together for a long time. We have talked, planned, and shared our ideas, and dreams for our people. Sometimes we cry. For many years, I have known Lenel Cotty Wessels of Front National, who is a business woman, a planner, a doer, a strategist whom I call “my little sister.” She is survivor and manages many difficult situations, but when she called me last night, I could hear that she was emotionally overwhelmed. She drove to that place to check the realities of white poverty. She caught a glimpse of hell on earth.
Read the original article by Daniel Lötter in Afrikaans on Front Nasionaal SA – blad
South Africa Today – South Africa News