Africa witness

People’s voice

Street life in Cape Town

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Tupak and a friend have been living on the streets of Bellville a surburb of Cape Town for several years(Photo Hassan Isilow/VOC)

Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN- These two men seen here are among the thousands of homeless South Africans who live on the city streets. I found them along Blankenberg Street in Bellville at midnight this week. Theirs is another story of people left destitute, forced to live off the streets for years because they are unable to find work and have no relatives to take them in.
“Life is extremely tough. We pick left over’s from rubbish bins which we eat. At times, if we are lucky, well wishers give us clean food or money,” one of the men who identifies himself as Tupak, related. He said they use boxes as mattresses and plastic bags as their blankets. “It’s very cold at night, but we have no option. When it rains, we just sit on shop verandas until early hours of the morning.” Tupak said he thought the end of apartheid would improve the lives of poor South Africans, but very little has changed ever since.
“I thought things would get better with the independence of South Africa in 1994, but instead people are getting poorer. I expected to get an RDP house, but for 11 years I have waited in vain,” he lamented. To make matters worse on the streets, people assume that the homeless are mad or thieves who are a threat to anyone moving about at night. “We are on the streets because of poverty and unemployment. We are neither mad nor thieves,” he stressed.
However, with the approach of the holy month of Ramadan in two weeks, the men are optimistic that good Samaritans will provide them with enough food to eat and clothes to wear, as Muslim are known to be generous at this time. “I can’t wait for Ramadan, because during then Muslims offer us food, money, clothes and they are generally sympathetic towards the destitute and poor,” Tupak said.
In the interim, it is another cold night that the homeless will have to endure, exposed to the elements. There are currently several homeless people living on the streets of Bellville, with many more living under the bridge or seek shelter on shop verandas. This article was first published on


Written by africawitness

July 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

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