Glimmer of hope for people living in tents in open field

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.
City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.
Image: JEREMY GLYN

There is a glimmer of hope among people living in an open field next to Wembley Stadium in Turffontein in Johannesburg as the city has begun improving their living conditions.

After months of wondering what their future holds while having to live in tents‚ trucks have begun to deliver containers which are designed to serve as mobile homes.

Some of the big tents have been moved to make way for the containers and the trees along the open field pruned.

Despite this glimmer of hope‚ when TimesLIVE visited the field this week the mood was not good.

At the entrance four men were sitting on the floor with a soccer ball in front of them. Children were running around the field openly and house music was playing in the background.

“Don’t be fooled. We are not celebrating anything. It is one of the ladies’ birthday. The guys decided to do something to make her happy. That’s all‚” said one of the residents‚ Naboth Madhoro.

The tents in which people have been living for months have been torn by the storms that have hit Johannesburg in the past month or so.

“Those tents are not okay. When it is raining the water comes inside and they get torn by the wind. We are hoping we move into the containers soon‚” said Wendy Ndaba* who lives with her children in one of the tents.

About 600 people have been living in this field for months. Some of the people were moved from Cape York building in the city centre when it caught fire on July 5.

Others were evicted from the Shongai and Fattis Mansions buildings. The number of people living in these tents has declined since TimesLIVE visited in October.

“The situation is now a little bit tense because since the last time I spoke to you‚ all the tents are torn. But I must thank the city because they are showing that they are doing something. There are eight containers which have been delivered and they promised to put more in order for the people who live in tents to move in this December‚” Madhoro said.

But the problems of living in this field are far from over.

“Crime is a day-to-day life. If you leave your tent unattended someone is going to take a chance. You can’t even leave food in your tent. People will just come and take it. There is just way too much poverty here. Most people are not working.

“Some people have left this place. During the heavy rain‚ those who had friends and families around‚ their families came and fetched them because the situation was bad.

“Some of the people have left this place to go and live on the pavements of the buildings they used to occupy. They said it is better to live outside those buildings because you can hide from the rain. Here it is terrible‚” Madhoro explained.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has begun his programme to remove people from hijacked buildings and turn them into low-cost rental properties. But his programme‚ already adopted by council‚ has received criticism as it does not have a proper plan to provide for temporary shelter for the displaced people.

Comment from the city could not be sourced at the time of publishing this article.

*Not her real name.

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