To the passer by Carolina looks like a typical rural coal mining town in South Africa. Its township, Silobela too. When driving into the town from Ermelo you see beautiful new RDP houses next to the road and you can be easily fooled into thinking that the Reconstruction and Development Plan, RDP for short, is starting to finally catch up to the wrongs of the past.
Don’t be fooled. The majority of the people of Silobela are struggling. For the most part the line of RDP houses are only one line thick, hiding an informal settlement with a few more RDP houses scattered in between.
It was amongst these shantys that I discovered Gogo Masina. Gogo is a traditional name and title given to a grandmother. Gogo lives in a traditional clay house, where she cares for six children. Allegedly nobody knows who their fathers are, and their mothers are unemployed and incapable of looking after them. Deep in her sixtys, Gogo is their only hope for shelter and love.
Sure, our government gives support to such families. An old age state pension is barely enough to get by, and Gogo is in dire need for help. Since the law was recently changed so that only the parents of children can receive children’s grants, chances are slim that she will receive any additional government support for her selfless labour.
What has happened to our country? Where is the emancipation and upliftment of the historically disadvantaged? While our president is building his multi-milliion dollar mansion and his lackeys parade around in wealth and splendour the masses are being disempowered.
The words from a Jimi Hendrix song, written by Bob Dylan springs to mind: “Outside in the cold distance a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl.”
May our country, South Africa be blessed. May its children be blessed. May we soon live in a country where people are not judged by the colour of their skin, neither by their political connections (or the lack of it).
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
Copyright Franz Fuls (photos and text)