By Victor Ochieng
South Africa suffered many years of apartheid that left many Black South Africans in abject poverty. With the long period of injustices, something had to be done to undo the effects of such injustices and bring Black South Africans back to their feet. As a result, the country’s ruling party, African National Congress (AFC), enacted some laws meant to provide employment opportunities for Blacks and, at least, give them bigger control of the country’s economy.
These laws among other factors have seen more White South Africans fall into hard financial times, pushing them to shanties.
In one of the shanties, you see iron-sheet walled huts and old cars parked outside as well as dusty wasteland, where the sight alone shows just how bad life is. Beyond the shacks you see pools of stagnant, dirty water that provide breeding spaces for mosquitoes. Similar pictures can be seen in several other “white squatter camps” in South Africa, defined by lack of adequate food, lack of clean running water and electricity.
That doesn’t mean Whites have completely lost their grip on the country’s wealth as they still control it. White South Africans also still land plum jobs in the country’s employment sector. However, the number of White South Africans living in poverty has jumped higher over the past 20 years.
The new laws and the biting global meltdown has caused serious decline in financial might among White South Africans. Unskilled White South Africans have it hard since the system already views them as beneficiaries of apartheid.
Close to half a million white South Africans are believed to be living in poverty. The country has a population of about 50 million and those living in poverty in the country are forced to survive on an approximated $28.99 a month.
Munsieville, located close to Johannesburg, hosts one squatter camp out of the 80 across the nation. The site is resting on a former dumping site and hosts about 300 people, with the majority of the population being children. In the camp, just like many others, the floors are typically made of earth. Over time, floods end up sweeping the top soil thus exposing years of garbage dumped at the site before the structures were erected.
Most of those living in the camp face serious unemployment and healthcare issues.
One of the residents, Henrik, 49, says he’s “too old to get a job” and thus believes his “life is over.” That doesn’t mean he stopped trying; but every time he does he’s told “sorry, you’re too old” as soon as they learn of his age.
“I do what I can to survive, collecting scrap metal or selling second clothes. But it is barely enough.”
Those living at the site are often discriminated against. Arie, 56, who also hails from the camp, says, “If you go to the hospital and say you are from Munsieville, they won’t help you.” She adds that “You will wait until the morning breaks and then maybe they will help you.”
That’s just how bad the situation is at the site yet most of the people at the camp are under 20 and weren’t part of the bad system that suppressed the black population.