Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How South Africa Works. Or, Doesn't

Here's a story that comes from an inside source, so I am sadly unable to provide a reference for it, other than a personal guarantee that it is true.

Two large townships in the Strand, Western Cape, area have grown so large that fire services from nearby urban areas are now unable to reach some parts of them in time, before frequent shack fires can be stopped from causing widespread destruction.

The local municipality came up with an expensive but workable solution, to build a new emergency centre on a piece of land it owned, on a main road in the area. During exhaustive research on the site, it was discovered that an informal settlement had existed there until the 1970s, and so had a burial ground. Many of you who are familiar with how South Africa works will see where this is all going...

The burial area was severely neglected, not having been visited by relatives of the deceased, who had been forcibly removed to near Strand under Apartheid, although the distance involved is not prohibitive. The state of decay was so great that it was not even identifiable as a graveyard, and had been used as a dump even in the 1980s.

According to rules of how these things operate, the municipality had to attempt to find, and then consult, the relatives of the deceased, to find a way to remove the bodies and build the fire station, which of course is to the benefit of those people.

After this had been done, the first and loudest cries from those relatives are for compensation. Of a financial nature. No surprise there, a cynic might say, and I tend to side with the cynic on this one. Financial compensation in these matters, however, is not on the table, but instead the municipality offers to re-inter those deceased in a cemetery closer to where the relatives live.

Somewhere between point A and point B, a second problem raises its head. Somebody politicises the issue, and new cries emerge of "more forced removals". This occurs after requests for lots of funeral money are turned down by the municipality.

To wrap up what could be a long story, the fire station cannot be built because the community will not allow it. It will eventually be built somewhere else, at massive cost, and in the meantime fire stations will struggle to save lives.

As an addendum, contrast this case with that of another township in Cape Town, where the remains of German missionaries were uncovered under an expanding squatter camp. Because the deceased are not black, the residents have threatened to dig them up en masse unless the City comes to remove them. It seems only some dead are important.

6 Opinion(s):

John G Kerlen said...

LMFAO Typical African behaviour. And then who's fault is it when the whole damned place burns down?

Slowly now...APARTHEID'S fault!

Anonymous said...

Racism alive and six foot under.

FishEagle said...

Welcome to Africa.

Anonymous said...

Please supply more info on where this new Firestation is going to be built. I know the Strand Gordonsbay and Somerset west area very well. The current Strand Fire station is already a new one built on the corner of George Street and Broadway. Where do they want to build another new one? During the 1980's the Black township of Lwandle (The beach, The strand in Xhosa) was only a few hostels with about 500 Blacks. Now the Black township of Lwandle and Nomzamo are gigantic with probably ten thousand Blacks if not more. Crime went through the roof since then. I can provide a lot more info on this area if the details of this article is elaborated on.

Viking said...


Nomzamo is where the residents were removed to, and the graveyard is at Waterkloof, on the way to Somerset West.

Viking said...


If you click on my profile, you'll find my email address.
The other township is Mfuleni (sp.?)