The ‘ugly’ side of South African townships

The ‘ugly’ side of South African townships

Many South African townships are ‘ugly’ and ‘undesirable’, and their picture does not reflect the country’s status of the continent’s biggest economy. These areas are a world apart from the glitz and glory associated with the country’s ‘world class’ buildings and infrastructure overrated by some sections of the media, real estate agencies and tourism marketing companies.

And the people who live in these areas have long resigned to their fate, and have hopelessly agreed to let nature take its course. These areas and these people are the victims of social injustice, unequal redistribution of income, bad governance and leadership chaos.

One such area in the township of Angelo, located east of Johannesburg on the East Rand of the Gauteng Province. Gauteng is South Africa’s richest province, contributing a third of the country’s GDP.
Established some 20 years ago, Angelo is an informal settlement, some sort of a ghetto, where about 10 000 people live on the premises of the ERPM gold mine, which has since been taken over by DRD Gold.

The township might be called Angelo, but there is nothing angelic about it: no water, no electricity and no adequate housing and sanitation. This justifies their tag of ‘forgotten people of Angelo’.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s leading opposition political party, alleges that the Ekurhuleni Council is reluctant to provide services because the area  is located on private land.
“This is why 2 000 people in one section of Angelo only have three taps,” DA caucus leader in Gauteng Jack Bloom said, after his overnight visit to the area this week.
The visit was part of the party’s Don’t forget the forgotten campaign.

“In the other section, which has about 8000 people, DA ward Councillor Hilary Coke pushed hard to install an extra eight taps early this year. People complain about high crime, including rapes, and said they wanted mast lighting. There is no electricity, although there is a substation nearby,” Bloom said, adding that his party will shortly donate a number of solar-powered lights to people in these settlements, to help eliminate candles that cause shack fires.

Rubbish collection is not good, but people are reasonably happy with the chemical toilets, he said.

In the absence of adequate housing in the area, the landowners, DRD Gold, paid each shack owner R500 (about 50 USD) to help rebuild their shacks. Other companies are also said to provide free wood that residents use to rebuild their shacks.

A sports field from the old mine overrun by long grass could be cleaned up and made useable for football and netball, with a little bit of assistance, Bloom said. The dire need in the area is a mobile clinic as the other clinics are far away in Reiger Park or Boksburg North, he added.

Several attempts to get comment from the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Council drew blanks.
In the meantime, Angelo remains a hopeless and forgotten place, and despite some of the gold that helped build the famous city of Johannesburg, and that put South Africa on the ‘golden’ map of the world came from that area, nobody seems to care.

There are close to 200 informal settlements in Gauteng alone, and most of them are the product of apartheid’s discriminatory policies. Despite some inroads made by the ANC-led government to improve the lives of the people, South Africa’s poverty rate (45%) remains as high as ever.

Photo Supplied. Uncollected rubbish lies near the Angelo train station.

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