Living on the Cape’s Pavements

By Noluvuyo Bacela

When I was younger I had this unnerving fear of living in a shack. The idea of calling four rusty tin walls with only one exit and electrical cables dangling above my head a home didn’t really sit well with me and neither did watching my childhood friend run along into the death-trap every evening.

I remember watching the 7.30 news broadcasts about shacks burning down by the seven-folds every winter in the Western Cape, seeing the family’s distressed faces as they picked through their chared possessions. I was fifteen years old at the time, full of hope and faith in former President Thabo Mbeki’s eloquent speeches about the beauty of this land and things of that nature. The future seemed bright from where I was standing because soon my mother would get her land back and we’d grow maize and potatoes again in front of the yard. We’d be exchanging the silver tin roofs that plagued our area with green crops – Yes, yes and yes!

Fast forward to 2014 to a time where I too am using an old paint bucket as a toilet bowl. I also wait till morning to venture into town or any place that has a public toilet to do the ‘number two’ because ”I’m backyarder* now!”. Can you imagine the discomfort? How the tide has shifted…

I arrived at Joe Slovo, which is an informal settlement in the Milnerton area near sunny Cape Town, at the beginning of this year. I was greeted by dusty, beautiful, small faces playing on the road, actually in a ditch which turned out to be a rubbish dump over the weekends. The shacks were so close together that we literally had to do the crab-walk to get to the main road because they literally spill over onto the roadside leaving little room to walk, never mind the cars that force their way from one alley to another, cars that never hoot for some reason even though there are fifteen kids playing on these walkways at any given time.

The roads are so dirty. I swear every weekend the sewage gets blocked and unclean water flows through the streets that have countless stray dogs, that were in heat last weekend. (Four dogs on one dog as the little boys and girls watched.)

Joe Slovo is a stone throw away from what was once the biggest mall in the southern hemisphere, Century City. The other day  I was amazed by the amount of remodelling that the entire area had gone through in the past decade. Remodeling that probably is the reason behind the Constitutional Court’s ruling to kick 20000 plus people living in Slovo to Delft, Sophiatown style. Delft which is in the outskirts of Cape Town, by the way.

There are super rich people just down the road, just watching and hoping to get rid of the filth that lives across the road. I’m sure they’d like to build a beautiful, green golf course or two soon, who knows? As I watched them put up a Top Billing billboard on the side of the road the other day I recalled the Eastern Cape’s The New Age’s epic fail of a Business Brief last week and I realized something; we are never gonna get out of this mess.

*backyarder – its slang for people that rent the shacks built at the  back of an RDP house or any house for that matter.


Vivantiane Binagwaho / 4 April 2014

Keep the hope .,set you levels of expectation high . This will motivate you to change things .changes are always possible .There must be dozens thinking like you.set up an association .remember solid changes are slow yet positive

Naluvuyo Bacela / 8 April 2014

Yes, always keeping the faith! Some days it seems like it’s impossible but impossible is nothing. It might be hard but it sure aint impossible, Viv!

Salha Kaitesi / 4 April 2014

I felt really sad after reading this … I hope you can find focus and strength to keep you going. Work even harder and don’t lose hope because you just don’t know what might be around the corner. Thank you for sharing your story. Much love and stay blessed x

Naluvuyo Bacela / 8 April 2014

Didn’t mean to make you sad! We have the beach around the corner do it’s not all doom and gloom, it helps with the focusing part. Thank you. x

Ntobeko / 8 April 2014

I will tell you this, something got to give. keep at it, letting the world know where we at. I am proud of you can’t say that enough.

StyleByLoren / 9 April 2014

This is heartbreaking BUT it’s bound to get better!


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