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By unknown | Mar 02, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

WALTER Masondo stands in his driveway, his grandchildren playing around his legs, watching a steamroller lay asphalt at a township stadium remodelled as a training venue for the World Cup.

WALTER Masondo stands in his driveway, his grandchildren playing around his legs, watching a steamroller lay asphalt at a township stadium remodelled as a training venue for the World Cup.

The day before, he says he heard gunfire erupt in a nearby part of KwaMashu, the Durban township which last year earned the title of being the murder capital of the country, with 300 killings from April 2008 to March 2009.

"Some boys said it was thieves," Masondo says nonchalantly. "But then the boys came back here and they said they had killed the tsotsi (thief)."

KwaMashu is just 5km from the leafy suburbs of Durban North and the city's golden beaches.

But residents here live in a different world from the areas where most World Cup tourists will visit.

Durban North reported just three murders over the same period - a dichotomy seen in all of South Africa's major cities with high-crime areas lying a stone's throw from relatively safe upmarket neighbourhoods.

KwaMashu was a hotbed of political violence at the end of apartheid.

Now development is taking off in the township of 500000 people, but residents have vastly different fortunes.

Masondo and his neighbours live in neat brick homes with small gardens.

The main road nearby is being expanded to four lanes, running to a posh new air-conditioned shopping mall, complete with a McDonalds.

"The only high-crime place is the KwaMashu men's hostel," says Constable Bongani Phenyana, who was off-duty at the mall.

"Even my colleagues are scared to go there."

Aside from a few recently built apartment blocks, the hostels are a sprawling shantytown, with winding muddy paths between shacks made of wood scraps, rocks and scraps of sheeting.

Improvised electrical connections drape dangerously over roofs and through roads, with women washing clothes in ditches.

"I'm scared, because I don't know what could happen to me," says Mthoko Mncwabe, a hairdresser who lives in one of the shacks.

"When someone is shooting someone, you can hear it, but you will never see anyone holding a gun."

Impressions of residents were borne out in a 2008 analysis of KwaMashu's crime patterns by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, a South African think-tank.

"One factor that came out in this research was that the hostels are for some reason quite strongly implicated in violence," says analyst David Bruce in the report.

"There was also quite distinctly a pattern of the violence being concentrated in the more informal settlements parts of the township."

The study found that in KwaMashu, half the population is under 25.

Employment was only 28percent. One third of households reported having no income and slightly more than one third live in a shack.

Grim numbers, but they are mirrored in other high-crime areas, the report says.

"Crime generally is quite localised. If you look at crime maps, there are areas that are hotspots," says Gareth Newham, head of the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies.

"About 80percent of violent crime is committed by people who know each other, so with murders, the victims and perpetrators know each other," he says. "The wealthier you are, the less likely you are to actually become a victim."

People most at risk are those who take buses or trains home from work, and live in underdeveloped neighbourhoods with poor lighting.

Masondo and his neighbours do not think they live in a particularly dangerous part of town, and say players and fans need not worry about coming to Princess Magogo as long as they avoid the hostels.

"The World Cup is going to be all right," Masondo says. "Nothing bad will happen." - Sapa-AFP


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