It was an interesting day today. I saw first hand what hard-living is and what barely-scraping-by looks like. I saw that mis-shaped scraps of thin, corrugated metal aren’t only found in junkyards, but rather make up the walls and roofs that hundreds of thousands of S. Africans live within.
Five of us went to Diepsloot, which is an informal settlement about 30 minutes north of Jo’Burg, where a great deal of xenophobic violence has taken place.
From a distance, it looks like a sprawling heap of rust, garbage and broken glass. However, once inside, you find that it is the home of more than 150,000 people. People like Kingston.
Kingston is a man from Malawi who lives in one of the shacks. For those of you who are following our work out here, you will hear much more about him in the coming weeks. He’s a wonderful man who came to S. Africa two years ago to earn money for his family of seven back home. Now, all he wants to do is go home, which he is unable to do until he raises 800 Rand – the equivalent of $100. “If I had the money, I would leave today,” he told me. Considering Kingston makes $10/week, when there is work for him to do, and has to pay rent and buy food, it is likely he won’t return to his family for well over a year. However, he did say when he returns to his wife, five children and 20 grandchildren, his family will celebrate and “kill a cow!”
We’re returning to Diepsloot tomorrow to meet more people and offer them a chance to tell their stories. Everyone we’ve met is as uniquely interesting as the next. It’s unthinkable that many foreigners live each day, simply praying the next will be better. Yet mobs of angry, under-employed S. Africans vented their frustrations by looting, beating and killing these people. People like Kingston.