The Portfolio: Deseni Soobben



I was privileged. I had a home. Yet, right before me, people’s homes were burnt to cinders. Right before me was a wasteland. People were slowly picking up the pieces and leaving. There was silence. Nobody was screaming or talking or shouting. The land was burning … There were not many men. The women were sitting, with children, waiting for their families to come home from work. They had nowhere to go. Some women continued with their menial tasks, bathing their children in the open. Some comforted their young ones; some just sat and stared into the unknown. Where to go? What to do?

Grandmothers who could not walk sat on beach chairs, waiting. It was the forced removals. Everything moved in slow motion, almost dream-like, yet this was no dream —this was their nightmare. Mattresses were burnt, however, the springs and iron structure of the bed could still be used. One man was carrying a bed on his head. Others looked hopeless, as if they didn’t know which way to turn. One woman was bathing her son, probably carrying on with the usual tasks of the day. When photographs jog your memory, this evokes senses and sounds.

I always felt awkward photographing people in desperate, unfortunate conditions. What do you say? How do you comfort? Is “sorry” ever enough? Yes, these pics were important and sought-after by our photographic agency, Afrapix, for the overseas unionists and activists. The photos encapsulate memories of the endless funerals of activists; the bullet-ridden, blood-stained rondavels on the South Coast; desolated homes in Imbali, amid the beautiful lush landscape of the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands. How can such a beautiful country have such stark, awful conditions?

Thirty years later, in democratic South Africa, we still have forced removals. People still do not have homes. Whatever happened to the promises that every citizen will have a home, clean, running water, lights, food — after all, shelter is a basic human right. Thirty years later, I am still privileged. I still have a home.

Deseni Soobben 1
Guest Author

Workers’ R60m ‘lost’ in banks scam

An asset manager, VBS Mutual Bank and a Namibian bank have put the retirement funds of 26 000 municipal workers in South Africa at risk

‘Judge President Hlophe tried to influence allocation of judges to...

Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to influence her to allocate the case to judges he perceived as ‘favourably disposed’ to former president Jacob Zuma

SAA grounds flights due to low demand

SAA is working to accommodate customers on its sister airlines after it cancelled flights due to low demand

Lekwa municipality won’t answer questions about why children died in...

Three children are dead. More than a dozen homes have been gutted by fires in the past six months. And, as...

Press Releases

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.