Shack dwellers exposed to high-risk radiation

WAITING FOR A HOME:  Lucas Mokgele with his two-year-old daughter Gomolemo  at Tudor Shaft informal settlement.
WAITING FOR A HOME: Lucas Mokgele with his two-year-old daughter Gomolemo at Tudor Shaft informal settlement.

THOUSANDS of people living at Tudor Shaft informal settlement are sitting on a ticking time bomb.

Their homes are built on a mine dump. The area is surrounded by land contaminated by mining activities and radioactive dumps.

Chris Busby, a world expert on uranium products, last year visited the area and warned that the people living there should leave immediately as radiation levels were 15 times higher than normal.

There are shafts underground and the shacks are on the verge of being swallowed by the ground.

Tudor Shaft, near Kagiso on the West Rand, is home to about 5,000 people. Though some are aware that the place is not fit for people to live in, they say they have nowhere else to go.

Sowetan arrives at the settlement on a rainy Friday afternoon. It's quiet.

We meet 42-year-old Lucas Mokgele walking to a tuck shop to buy achaar.

He leads us to his shack. We knock and his wife Mavis answers the door.

She is busy preparing a meal on their singe-burner primus stove.

A curtain is used to separate the bedroom from the tiny kitchen and living area in the one-room shack. There is a washing line in the kitchen .

Their two-year-old daughter's nappies are hanging to dry.

The couple, who arrived in the area more than nine years ago, have two children, Gomolemo and nine-year-old Gosekoang.

"I know that my shack might sink because there are holes underneath," he says.

Mokgele, who is from Taung in North West, says: "We have been told we are not supposed to live here but where will we go?"

He moved to Gauteng in search of a job and landed at Tudor Shaft.

"You see that," he says, pointing at a sack full of coal behind the door. "We use the coal to make a brazier so that we can warm the shack in winter. It's a big risk but we do not have electricity."

"During the long nights we share the bed with both children," his wife says.

Mokgele says he does not know what effect the area will have on them and their children and is worried.

"The government is just making empty promises. We registered for a house about nine years ago. We are still waiting," he says.