No escape from streets of despair

SLICE OF LIFE

What makes it a hellhole is not the seemingly uninhabitable dark shadows cast by the scrap piled up to make a pavement home.

It’s not the constant danger of debris falling from the decrepit building that still tries to boast, though now with faded letters, of housing “Bona Hairdressers”.

What makes it a hellhole is the crushing but futile desire to escape the streets.

Montwa Mofokeng has been living rough in downtown Johannesburg for eight years, falling into a fitful sleep every night at the corner of Commissioner and Goud streets.

She lives surrounded by addicts, and every day she watches them selling scrap, or their bodies – or their dignity by begging – to get the money that will feed their cravings for nyaope and other drugs.

Mofokeng left behind an unloving home in Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, and never returned. Aged 30, she has raised two sons, now five and nine, on the streets.

She has watched and listened to the stories of her neighbours at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

She can tell you of the girl who is qualified as a nurse and the woman who once had a career in law, but who now share this corner of the city with her and the many men who seem to fall through the cracks of society more often than women do.

Mofokeng can tell you how often women get raped, sometimes after a beating because the men say the women took their money and they are taking what they want in return. She will tell you that this is the way things are on these streets.

She has been a spectator long enough to have met many people, and to have heard their fantasies of how the world should be, and the reasons it is not as it should be, and the excuses of why it cannot be made as it should be.

She has been told over and over again why drugs are necessary, the world being as it is. And she has watched as the drugs destroyed, one by one, those she calls her family.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Just transition could secure access to cleaner energy sources in...

A researcher says Africa’s huge renewable energy potential could save lives from air pollution

South African entrepreneur seeks to turn caterpillars into tasty snacks

For many people, particularly from western European backgrounds, the idea of eating insects is still riddled with fear and inhibition

No shucks given at the Knysna Oyster Festival

The world of Knysna’s shores is everyone’s oyster this week. There is something for everyone: arts; entertainment; trail running; wining and dining; and chocolate making

Plasma gangs: How South Africans’ fears about crime created an...

A tale of criminality, magic, violence and fear offered a way to foreground the contradictions that come with living in a township
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×