I do not get too concerned about illegal land invasions when it happens. It has become so commonplace that it no longer bothers me like before.
Like many people though it does bother me to see the way people live after that. I always think land invasions are suicidal because later they become a miscarriage one way or another. But surely people resort to that not because they are mad? I always ask myself questions as to why would they do that out of the blue.
I do not really sympathise with those who put shacks in low-lying areas and my recent visit to Marikana informal settlement in Philippi East made my sugar levels spike. These people are living in extreme squalor.
I was taken around the area and the situation is bad. Marikana has become a breeding ground for crimes, rats, flies helping themselves in human faeces and the dirt surrounding the area is unbelievable, one would not think there are kids being raised in such a dirty, filthy place.
Marikana is on the brink of a health crisis as shacks are flooded in stinking water, forcing people to use other means to reach to their homes.
These people literally live with rodents, mosquitoes and cockroaches. Worse is the smell of faeces and dead rats that hang in the air. The lack of electricity means that they have to illegally connect electricity. That means some school-going children cannot study at night.
I interacted with some of the residents of the informal settlement. They shared bad stories of their history and why they decided to occupy that land four years go.
They used to rent and were treated badly by homeowners, so much so that they could not take it anymore.
After hearing some of the horrible stories, I conceded why they occupied the area. I used to think that Marikana people are stubborn because they would not move out of there. I now agree they have to do so.
The problem, however, is that that land needs to be scoped by geologists.
As I was going around seeing all the dirt including human faeces all over the place, the thought at the back of my mind was, what is the point of moving to such squalor.
As I walked between the closely-packed shacks, there were times when I wanted to throw up and spit, but I could not for fear of being labelled something I am not. But I must say they seemed so overwhelmed with the disgusting conditions and they are concerned.
Remember there are no toilets and that means people answer the call of nature anywhere. By anywhere I mean, one can dig the hole next to his/her house to help him/herself and close it again. Again with kids it is virtually anywhere and sometimes there are no holes made. There are dogs too.
I was told it becomes tough at night and one can step into danger. Well, we all know the story of the 11 people who were shot dead last year.
The situation is dire but no one wants to help. Marikana is like the street kid of informal settlements.
It is that kid that is abandoned by a parent he doesn’t know. I am struggling to imagine the future of the children growing up there.
Must children be punished for the sins of their parents? The government should really intervene and buy that piece of land and develop it for those children.
I urge you to visit Marikana, but if you don’t come back, do not blame me or this newspaper. It is tough there.