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Kwa-Vezinyawo: No place to hide your feet

When they knocked down the old Brakpan location, the people moved to a new township called Tsakane. But only people who were born and grew up in Brakpan got houses in Tsakane. The people who come from other places in the Transvaal did not get any houses.

The East Rand Administration Board (ERAB) only gave these people numbers. They told ‘the people to build themselves shacks at the very end of Tsakane Township. People call this place Silvertown. The people also have another name for this place. They call it Kwa-Vezinyawo.

The place is crowded. The shacks are close together. The streets are muddy after the rain. And when the rain does not come, the streets are dry and dusty.

The place has no clinics or schools. There are only two street lamps in the whole shack township. Every street has only two taps. Dirty, smelling water runs in the streets. Learn and Teach visited the place and spoke to some people.-

Dan Vilakazi lives In Silvertown. He has a wife with one daughter. He spoke about life in the place: “We came here in 1981. ERAB told us to come here for a while. They promised to build houses for us in two years.

“They gave us numbers and we built our shacks. We spent a lot of money on corrugated iron and other building materials. I spent nearly three hundred rands on building materials to make this little shack.

“My wife left her job to look after the shack. People break into our houses in the day when nobody is home. And they steal washing from the line.

“The corrugated iron makes the shack hot in summer. In winter we freeze in this place. When the rain comes the water comes through the roof. We use basins and dishes to catch the water. When the rains come at night, every­ one must wake up to keep the shack dry.

“Do you know why we call this place kwa-Vezinyawo? Well, when we first came here we found only toilets. There was nothing else. The toilets were painted silver. So people called this place Silvertown.

“But we noticed something else. When you sit in the toilet, people can see your feet from outside. People from outside don’t need to knock. They can already see your feet inside. The word ‘Vezinyawo’ is Zulu for – ‘show your feet’. So the people also called this place kwa-Vezinyawo.

“Now the rent has also gone up. Can you believe it? We pay rent for a dirty place like this! When something goes wrong here you never see a policeman. They never come to help us – they only come to arrest people for passes.

“The school is far away. Our children have to travel by bus every morning. There are always long qeues because buses are scarce. You have to wake up very early to stand in the long qeues.

People and children are late for work and school almost everyday.

“When one famiIy has a party or stok­vel, we can’t sleep at night. We feel like the party is in our own house. We just hope that one day ERAB will keep it’s promises. I don’t know how much longer we can stay in this terrible place.

Learn and Teach spoke to Mrs Alleta Dube. She is 69 years old. She shares a shack with her children and grand­ children, Altogether 15 people live in the shack, The eldest son Dan is the only one who has a job.

Mrs Dube is a very sick woman. She has fits very often. The nearest hospital is in town. When Mrs Dube must go to the hospital, she must hire a car for R 10 or R 15.

Learn and Teach moved around Kwa­ Vezinyawo. We spoke to a young girl. Her name is Maria Soko. “We have no sports fields or bioscopes for young people,” she said. “This place is dead. We spend the whole day cleaning. When we finish cleaning, we start again.

We then saw some men drinking beer outside a house. The wind was blowing dust into the beer. They laughed and one man said: “We are now used to it. Maybe the dust gives the beer a better taste, who knows?”

Another man said:” You see there is no clinic or hospital here. We only have a graveyard nearby. They can bury us quickly – no problems,”

“We do not have any leaders to help us,” said another man. “ERAB chooses our leaders for us, They choose a Zulu to speak for the Zulu people. They choose a Tswana to speak for Tswana people and so on. These people on the Council do not help anybody really. People in the old location chose their own leaders. These leaders helped the people.

The people of Kwa-Vezinyawo now wait for better houses. They wait for toilets that will hide their feet. They wait for ERAB to keep its promise.

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