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Khayelitsha ("Our new home") is South Africa's second largest township after Soweto. When racial discrimination still was a political goal, the blacks were "put away" here. That was back in the eighties. Today an estimated 600,000 to 1.5 million people are living here - only blacks.
There are no street names in Khayelitsha. The huge area is divided into 26 districts, that are simply numbered by letters. We were at "Site B". In addition to that each shack has a number, which we couldn't find anywhere, though. If you're wondering whether your mail would get through to them, well, just write a postcard to our friends: Thembeka Gecelo and David Mxolisi Sofute, S 541, Site B, Khayelitsha 7784, South Africa.
One out of two people is unemployed. The condition of the shacks is correspondingly pitiful. They're mostly made of timber and sheet metal. Some parts of Khayelitsha don't have electricity or water. However, the black government is trying to fix that and provide both for free.
"Take the picture, show it in Germany, tell them that we are poor!"
A visit at Thembeka's and David's home. They do have electricity and a little closet hut in front of their shack. Despite public appeals to save water: The flush leaks, so fresh water is permanently wasted. A little sealing ring would solve the problem. But for repair they don't have the money nor the knowledge nor are they especially motivated. After all, the wasted water is free ...
Next year Thembeka and David want to build a permanent house. The bricks are provided by the government for free. Windows and doors have to be supplied by themselves somehow. Even that is for most people an insurmountable hurdle. David was unemployed recently (now he's lucky to work at a post office). Thembeka earns about 110 Euros per month at 1.5 Euro per hour. There are no miminum wages in South Africa. If there were, a lot of jobs wouldn't exist. For instance the jobs of those weighing fruits in the supermarkets in wealthier parts of the city and placing the bar code stickers on the bags. Or the jobs of those blacks operating the vacuum cleaner at service stations. Jobs that have been self-service in Germany for a long time.
Even though it's not their original religion many blacks have adopted the christian religion. They are hoping for a better and more prosperous life, as in the christian dominated industrial nations. David conducts a church choir. Thembeka and him go to church every day, on Sundays three times. Life in the township might look miserable to visitors, but many things have improved in the last 10 years. This service for example is not held in a shack as usual, but in the new multi-purpose community hall.
You see many children in Khayelitsha, in spite of free contraceptives. - Not on the photo: one out of five South Africans is HIV-positive. David and Thembeka go to hospital every 3 months to have themselves checked for AIDS.
These children don't know LEGO, they play with things that others won't use anymore, for instance with my empty film cans. Here they are playing in and on a wrecked car.

As a first reaction to my question, if I might take a photo of them, these two women rejected by going back into their shack. They thought I wanted money for it. After I had assured them that it was free, they came out again, still a little shy though.

By now, all children are granted primary education at village schools. Secondary or university level education however is extremely expensive - too expensive for the people here. Inferior qualification of the black majority therefore represents a major problem to the South African economy.
Food is sold between the shacks. Without cooling and exposed to flies the meat lies on bare tables in the scorching sun. All parts of an animal are eaten: stomach, guts, entrails, head.

above: Thembeka's barber shop: An old container.

I had my hair cut there, too. This was fun for both the hairdresser and me. Normally this sort of service costs 3 DM. For me it was double the price, because he had to use scissors - not neccessary in the case of the client on the picture above for instance ...

In spite of poor living conditions and rather high unemployment and crime rate, the people in Khayelitsha seem to burst with joy, faith and confidence. Workaholics like me could learn a lot here!
[Copyright by Michael von Aichberger, all rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.]

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