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

Gogo Masina's House

Gogo Masina’s House

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

The bedroom

The bedroom

The lounge and Kitchen

The lounge and Kitchen

Ablution Facilities

Ablution Facilities

Copyright Franz Fuls (photos and text)


14 thoughts on “All Along South Africa’s Watchtower

  1. Pingback: All Along South Africa’s Watchtower | SouthWeb Org

  2. Pingback: SA Bloggers – All Along South Africa’s Watchtower

  3. Thanks for the valuable attention given to the people of Silobela and the informal settlements around Carolina.

    It is time that we start caring for one another in this country.

    About the music:
    Hendrix is one of the stars on the 20th century’s rick revolution. IT is so appropriate that you saw his link with Dylan. Making the tie up with South Africa, is so appropriate.

  4. Hi. i live in carolina. We’ve been trying to find people to assist with a monthly food hamper. Will it b possible to share your information about Gogo Masina. Perhaps we could be of some assistance to her.

  5. Tasnim, Thank you for your generousity. I am driving through Carolina this Friday afternoon. Maybe we can meet up and I can help you locate her. contact me on [adress removed]

  6. Ah franzfuls, your post made my heart weep and smile simultaneously. So many of our politicians and leaders seem content with being seen to do something on the surface; rather than doing the thing than needs to be done. And doing it in a way that sustains change and growth within our communities.

    But then there are people like Gogo Masina: who is not content to look away from the suffering; who will do what she can, with what she has, where she is.

    At least by her actions, these children will know what it is to be cared for; to be part of a family unit. They in turn will learn about caring for those around you and how to hold others up. And that learning will spread to those they then come into contact with.

    Change always starts with small numbers. If we cannot look to our leaders to support us in our time of need, then we must look to our neighbours and ourselves. The wind may be howling, but we howl back. In our small ways; through our actions and through our deeds, we speak of how we wish for our world to be.

    And by your actions, by writing this post that draws attention to the situation, you are helping people to stay informed of the realities that are being lived. Keep up the good work.

  7. Here in Stanford, Western Cape, similar situation. However, compared with Robertson where we lived before, there is more interaction and engagement between people of all walks of life. There are several soup kitchens, funds for education, clothing etc. and these are all privately funded. Still not as it should be (thanks to whatever government) but people are working on it!!! In the past I blogged quite a few items about life in an informal settlement and I can assure you that if more South Africans would ‘camp’ in a shack without electricity and sanitation for a week or so there might be a chance of significant change in the shorter term. Thanks for publishing and i enjoyed your article in the M&G

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