Life is tough in Mamelodi
This morning we fetched Grace Malahlela and her mother Alinah and Grace’s two grandchildren, and gave them a life to Christina Mothapo’s house where we join them and a few others for the Hours and Readers Service every second Sunday. Alinah has a bad leg, and that is why she needs a lift. On the way Grace told us the latest bad news: they fear there is a serial killer in Mamelodi.
A young girl was murdered in their street last week, and another a few streets away, and yet another in Mamelodi West. This was the big topic of conversation after the service, and it seems that many people are very scared.
But there was also good news, or at least mixed news. Christina said the Tshwane Municipality was offering to replace roofs that had been damaged in a hailstorm last year. Her roof had been badly damaged, but she had already replaced it, and it had cost quite a bit of money. We suggested that she ask if the municipality would be willing to reimburse her for at least some of the cost of repairing the roof.
The old roof had been asbestos, and she had replaced it with galvanised iron. Many of the apartheid era council houses in Mamelodi had asbestos roofs.
But it was good to hear that the municipality was doing something to help the poorer residents.
But when we got home there was more bad news from Mamelodi, though not one that had been a topic of conversation among the residents we had been with. For the media, at least, Mamelodi seems to be the drug capital of South Africa, and this has led to an increase in crime as addicts steal to feed their habit. Perhaps one of the worst aspects, not really mentioned in the article, is that antiretroviral drugs are stolen or bought from Aids sufferers to be used as an ingredient of nyaope.
The 150m-long street with no official name is home to one of the notorious drug dens that have proliferated since the early noughties, when nyaope – a mixture of heroin, rat poison, dagga and sometimes antiretroviral drugs – was first sold in the township.
Mamelodi, which has the distinction of being the home of the late struggle hero Solomon Mahlangu, also has the unenviable title as the township most ravaged by this drug. Four out of five households have at least one member addicted to it, says local anti-drug group Thandanani.
Mamelodi’s Solomon Mahlangu Freedom Square has also fallen foul of the drug’s users, who have stolen cement and building equipment to fund their addiction. Curiously, the bronze statue of Mahlangu remains untouched.
On that Tuesday morning, the young people crouch, engrossed in their hand-rolled cigarettes. When City Press approaches, they stand, alarmed, only lowering their guard when we are introduced by Edgar Masuku, coordinator of the Stanza Bopape Health and Community Development Centre.
They are too ashamed to be named, wishing to spare their families further embarrassment, but they are willing to be photographed.