23 Rabi Awwal 1439 AH • 12 December 2017

Blikkiesdorp, a forgotten community

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By Thakira Desai

Photos by Thakira Desai and freelance filmmaker, Steffan Siebel-Cortopassi

In startling contrast to the inner city, VOC’s news team was this week left speechless upon witnessing the reality of life on the outskirts of the City of Cape Town, in an area that is aptly nicknamed ‘Blikkiesdorp’. Keeping in line with the station’s mandate as a community broadcaster, VOC visited the neglected community to provide residents with a platform to voice their concerns during a three hour live broadcast on 10am Express with Ayesha Latoe.

The area, officially titled Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area was established some 10-years-ago and acts as a temporary relocation for desperate families who await permanent low cost housing and consists of approximately 1,600 one-room structures. According to government officials, the development of Blikkiesdorp has cost over R30 million to build. With four homes sharing one ablution facility, for many the living conditions can only be described as “inhumane”.

“Blikkiesdorp, an area consisting of tin-homes, with plastic roofing and devoid of adequate flooring – entering each home, one quickly realizes that they are nestled on mere sand, with families forced to use any means necessary to shelter their belongings from being buried in the ‘flooring’ of their homes.” – VOC reporter

VOC was hosted at HOPE (HIV Out-reach Programme and Education) Cape Town, where residents are supplied with warm meals, assistance and childcare facilities.

Situated in close proximity to Delft, Blikkiesdorp is synonymous with poverty and crime. VOC, therefore, saw it necessary to provide a voice to a community that has since relocation voiced concerns that their pleas for improved living conditions have fallen on deaf ears.

Residents braced the cold, all wanting to participate in the on-air discussion.

The children excitedly showcased their work.

The imam of the al-Ansaar Salah Khanah

Badronessa Morris who works during the morning schedule, cooking for the children for Darul Islam at al-Ansaar Salah Khanah and a resident of N-Block in Blikkiesdorp, previously a resident of Delft and Symphony, says despite its challenges, working with the children of the community strengthens her belief in the Almighty.

Currently registered on the housing waiting list, Morris says that while the crime level in the area is of concern, she is thankful to have a place to call home.

While the feeding scheme continues uninterrupted, the kitchen is in need of a new pot.

“In the afternoon they make soup or maybe lentils and dull, but we need mostly bones and more meat so that we can feed more people. The most important thing here is that the kids are very hungry.”

Proudly claiming her status as the oldest student at the salah khanah, Shamiela Harris, a resident of Blikkiesdorp for close to 10 years, says that the establishment of the salah khanah has reconnected her with her faith.

She asserts that her reversion to Islam was the best moment of her life.

“During my naughty period, I embraced Islam. [While] my grandfather and my family is Muslim, during the time of my father, everybody turned Christian and we lost [Islam]…At this age, I am still learning and I am not afraid to say that I am Muslim.”

Harris is the eldest student in the madrassa, continuing in her efforts to learn to recite the Qur’an.

Having walked a difficult road in life, she continues to gracefully show appreciation for everything that she has been granted.

“I can say today shukr to Allah for each and everything that has been brought into my life,” Harris stated.

Given the socio-economic concerns within the community, Harris says that the biggest concern of the residents is the lack of employment.

“A lot of children here [have]completed matric, but there is no work and the [issue of]gangsters and robbers [persists].”

VOC reporters spoke to youth who found themselves aimlessly wondering around the area, many of them speaking of the challengers that they face in their attempts to regularly attend school.

While residents from areas such as Blikkiesdorp are often criticized for owning satellite dishes, in speaking to residents and understanding their concerns, one quickly realizes that access to a satellite dish is the only escape and form of entertainment for the children of the community.

Enjoying the company of the youngest members of the community, mualima Soraya Johnson, who teaches madrassa to children under the age of five, says her biggest task is ensuring that the children are able to function with little interruption from the impact of their home lives.

“A lot of them are [suffering from]Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, so it is challenging to get them to sit still and to listen to me. But otherwise I just adore them – but that’s part of the sabr [patience].”

Despite the numerous challengers that the children face, Johnson says that the children show promise, having already memorised the first ten verses of Surah al-Rahmaan – “that is enough for me” she adds.

The lack of understanding of their lived reality is evident in the innocent eyes of the children, who through their laughter provide much needed escape from the living conditions within the area.

Speaking on behalf of al-Ansaar Salah Khanah, mualima Fatima Abrahams, says that the biggest need at present is the refurbishing of the ladies section of the masjid, which was recently damaged by flooding.

“Just recently, the girls section was flooded; we do not know what is the cause – whether it came from the bathroom or from the roof, [but]we appeal to the listeners to assist and [to]see what they can do for us, because it is indeed the house of Allah.”

The ladies section requires urgent repairing, with water damage rendering the area unusable.

Members of the management of the masjid utilise any equipment that is donated and despite battling to secure adequate furniture, they ensure that it is kept in pristine condition.

The masjid boasts a neatly constructed ablution area.

Regarding the madrassa, Abrahams says that the children require basic resources, including books and stationary.

While al-Ansaar Radio provides meals to the children from Monday until Thursday and Darul Islam Zakah Fund on Fridays, over weekends, the children are not provided with meals.

“Weekends they do not have anything to eat and we appeal to listeners if they can assist us to feed them on Saturdays and Sundays,” Abrahams urged.

Whilst remaining thankful for having a roof over their heads, residents shared their concerns about construction issues that they face, with complaints of water and wind damage during the winter season the biggest concern.

As we made our way through the area, the number of children loitering the numrous alleyways during school hours only incresed.

Despite enjoying his interaction with the vibrant residents, Brazilian freelance filmmaker Steffan Siebel-Cortopassi,  was shocked to witness the less-picturesque parts of the Cape, which are not traditionally boasted about in travel guides.

“Blikkiesdorp felt like a dream. Separated from the rest of the world, unsuitable living conditions and gang violence rule. Kids without birth certificates or options.
Build your home strong for a storm may bring it down upon you!” – Brazilian freelance filmmaker Steffan Siebel-Cortopassi

 

The Blikkiesdorp Neighbourhood Watch assisted in ensuring that the OB was a success.

VOC 91.3fm

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