Alex citizens just want it ‘to be nice’

Martha Ranamane says that she hates that there is no fresh air in Alex. “There’s dumping next to the school, and there are toilets next to the church. That’s why we have rats here.”

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, the 67-year-old says that all she wants is for Alex to be “nice” — maybe like Soweto, she says, where they have decent houses and tarred roads.

Ranamane’s friend, Magdalene Khunou, has lived in Alex since her birth in 1952, but still doesn’t have a house to call her own. “I live in a shack with my grandchildren. I’ve been waiting for the government to give me a house since 1996,” she says.

Ranamane and Khunou are just two of the many citizens of Alexandra who are frustrated at the state of things. Speaking to the community after the #TotalShutDown protests in early April, President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted some of the issues that residents in the area were facing, and said that he was “disturbed” by the high levels of filth. “Sewerage and human waste is all over the streets. We cannot allow that. It is upon the shoulders of the local government to clean up this area — we cannot allow our people to live amongst rats. Alexandra and Ward 105, is not a dumping ground,” Ramaphosa said.

READ MORE: Ramaphosa addresses Alexandra, says he thought Mashaba would have come first

Margaret Dlamini, 50, lives in Alex in a one-bedroom house with her five children, who range in age from 16 to 28. Her children’s father left for Lesotho five years ago, neither Dlamini nor her children have heard from him since. Dlamini, who is unemployed, says that she and her children live off of the R830 a month that she gets from the government as a grant for her sixteen-year-old twins. The family does not have a fridge in its home, and prepare food on a two-plate stove. Dlamini and her twins share a broken double bed, while her other children sleep on the floor. “When one of us want to bath, everyone else has to go outside”, Dlamini explained, saying that their place of living is too small for anyone to have any privacy.

READ MORE: Alex’s answer — Relocations

“Promise, promise, promise — but nothing”, says 54-year-old Elsie, who preferred not to give her full name, tells the M&G. “That’s the problem. Service delivery. Our place is dirty. We have waiting lists since 1996. This is Alex. And people are struggling.”

“There are houses being built on the pavements. There is barely space for us to walk”, she says. According to her, Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals are taking up the space. “I wouldn’t go to Zimbabwe and build a shack whoever I wanted to. Mugabe wouldn’t let me. So why must we allow it here?”

Ben Motloutsi, 49, has lived in Alex for the past 25 years. Without offering more detail, Motloutsi says that he was dismissed in 2007. “I have never seen process in Alex,” he tells the M&G as he sits on a couch in his small home. “Our people that we loved in the ANC are corrupt,” he says. “They ate our money. We are suffering.”

Televised proceedings of the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture play in the background as Motloutsi tells the M&G, “these are the people who robbed us of our money.”

READ MORE: Despair drives #AlexShutDown

The father-of-two, whose wife died in 2004, lives with his son, who is in matric at a school around the corner from their home. He relies on his 30-year-old daughter, who lives in Kempton Park, to support the two of them. “I want my child to be educated,” he says. “If he doesn’t go to school, he’s going to end up being a thief.”

Life is difficult for Motloutsi. He is really struggling, he says.“You can’t walk in the streets because people are building shacks there. And this is not a DA problem. This is ANC’s problem- they didn’t do what they promised us before. Nothing has happened,” he says. “This is not what Mandela wanted. Since Zuma, I hate this government.”

“Truly speaking, I support the EFF — all the corruption, the EFF are the ones calling for it to end,” he says.

Aaisha Dadi Patel
Aaisha Dadi Patel
Aaisha Dadi Patel cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in 2014, and now works in a freelance capacity. She's written about everything from politics to polar bears, with particular interests in gender and Islam. She holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand.

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