When comrades gather on the streets singing tired revolutionary songs and drinking beer and protesting for this and that, they have a popular adage they love throwing around. ‘There comes a day when the poor will have nothing to eat but the rich.’ I have taken the adage as a consoling statement from comrades. The truth is, when the poor have nothing to eat, they will eat each other. This is not a catchphrase; it is true for those of us who exist in perpetual fear in the townships.
Months ago, a friend confirmed to me, ‘it’s hard for me to admit this, especially to a seemly conscious person like yourself, but I don’t want my children to have black people’s mannerisms. I want them to act white, because white people seem to be well-behaved.’ I tried not to act shocked, and I subtly asked a couple of my ‘conscious’ friends what they would love for their children to behave like. Because most of them were not pressed down to be politically correct, they agreed they wanted their black children to behave like white people.
I wasn’t prepared to be in an argument, I surprisingly have lost much patience with explaining dialectics; all I postulated was, ‘if you divide a room in half with an impermeable wall, each with a person inside; one half has a door and a window. The other half only has a five-centimeter diameter hole. Who between the two people will be able to breathe normally? Actually, imagine the behavior of the person whose air is getting in through the hole.’ Their countenance were of a people who understood the postulation, if they didn’t it’s okay: people often don’t want to get it if it disturbs their realities.
Well, the township is exactly like the half where the person is breathing through the hole. And if we attempt to improve it by making the radius a little bigger, we are doing ourselves an injustice.
Just after Ivory Park and Kaalfontein exists a new establishment called, ‘Clayville.’ It must have been a farm owned by one white man who decided to sell it to the government. Let me paint a picture for you. It is a combination of government RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) flats, and closely packed bond houses. You can’t have a garden or anything productive outside the actual house. More descriptively, if you come out of the house running, you are going to have your back against the wall, or land flat on your neighbors because the houses don’t have fences.
The houses, if scrutinized, are smaller than those found in Ivory Park, Tembisa, Soshanguve, Katlehong, Kwa-Mashu and other townships. The tricky part here is how this place is dabbed as a ‘mini-suburb.’ Why? I don’t know, but I am guessing it is because the people who live in these matchbox houses are apparently paying the same amount as those living in the suburbs. Around six thousand per month, for twenty years.
The RDP flats are close to the bond houses, so close that if you rebelliously want to spill your cold coffee through the window when you’re on the third or fourth floor, it will land on the face of your neighbor who lives in the bond houses. Each flat has about 24 RDPs. They stretch up to fourth floor. The day I wanted to be accurate and count all the flats for this article, I ran out of power. I had counted 47 flats and I was far from finishing. We could be talking about plus hundred RDP flats here. I don’t want to do the calculation of how many black people are going to exist there.
The township was created for black people to live close to their workplaces – the outside of the cities and town, where they could be exploited of their labour. Their humanness was disregarded. That’s why the apartheid government and its predecessors stuffed black bodies in the compacted areas so they couldn’t breathe. So, they couldn’t even move with ease.
Now if the African National Congress (ANC) is building the same houses, actually far worse houses than the apartheid regime, what are they implying about our humanness as a people? They even have the guts to build RDP Flats, where in one flat 200 people are living. Few years in, sewerage overflowing, water and electricity scarcity, ghastly overcrowding, violence will be common in the ‘mini-suburb’ of Clayville.
I was discouraged by a couple of people about writing this opinion article because it appears as though I am not appreciating what the ANC is doing. ‘What about the people who moved from shacks to live in those RDP, it means a lot to them. They will have a bathroom, two bedrooms and a small kitchen, that’s something.’ Of course, I could imagine them opening the door to their new house with their paraffin stove, worn-out microwave, and a couple of dishes by their sides. With their RDP flat neighbors giving them intense looks since their items are oozing cockroaches.
However, I couldn’t shake the thought of how the ANC has dehumanized us to the point of making us appreciate what shouldn’t ‘really’ be appreciated. They make us appreciate small and almost-impossible-to-live-in houses, school toilets, free education, food, health care, etc. They have mastered the art of making a mockery out of black people.
But maybe I am indeed reaching here, because weeks ago the ANC was celebrating that it has been able to supply people with zinc containers. Saying the containers are much more secure and safer than shacks.
Whichever way you think about Clayville, it doesn’t change the bitter truth that it is the total reinforcement of the township and in the few years to come, it will be more dangerous and more insane than the well-known townships. Hunger, unemployment and human proximity breed violence; and it seems like those who live in the bond houses will suffer the most.
The questions are, is the ANC improving anything by building those RDP flats? Can the township, looking at the bases of its construction, be improved?****
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