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Blikkiesdorp – ‘ Its like living in a concentration camp’

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Just over 20 kms outside of the City of Cape Town lays a small community named Blikkiesdorp. Blikkiesdorp translated into English means tin village and that is what you see when you drive into the little village, through gates, you see row upon row of tin structures. What started out as a temporary relocation village has turned into a home for the countless families that are forced to stay in the little town.

Blikkiesdorp was built by the City of Cape Town in 2007 built in response to a court order and according to reports it cost over 30 million rand to build. The village is regarded as unsafe and it has become well known for its high crime rate and poor living conditions.

The families that stay in the village last week handed over a memorandum of grievances to the Cape Town mayor asking for proper homes in which they can stay.

The people of Blikkiesdorp have been living in containers for years and these are their stories

Photo credit: Umarah Hartley  “This is a place that is worst than hell.”
Photo credit: Umarah Hartley
“This is a place that is worst than hell.”

Jacqueline Pretorius also known as Ouma is an elderly woman who has been evicted from her residence twice in her life. The first time she was evicted was during the Apartheid era and she and her family was forced from their home in District six and moved to the Cape Flats region.

Ouma compared living in Blikkiesdorp as like living in Hell.

The elderly woman has been ill for the past three weeks due to a lack of insulation in her home and says that the people in the town are treated like animals. Ouma feels that living in prison would be a better place to stay as food and heating would be provided for.

She has been living in the tin village for the past six years and feels as though this is a race issue; that the government has forgotten about the coloured people in the Cape and says she does not understand why coloured people must suffer so much.

“The only person I will vote for is my lord and I know that the lord will take me out of here with my family,” says Ouma.

Photo credit: Umarah Hartley  "I have to sleep with my eyes open."
Photo credit: Umarah Hartley
“I have to sleep with my eyes open.”

Tandi who only goes by a first name basis says that she doesn’t see the democracy in this place. The large amount of gangsterism and crime in the area has caused her many sleepless nights and says that she sleeps with one eye open and adds that she has to act like a security gaurd for her children and her home.

“A lot of people get sick and they are dying before they even get houses it would be better if they could move us to another area rather than stay here in Bikkiesdorp,” Tandi explained.

“People are dying each and everyday here in the camp and even the children don’t go to school because they are to scared to go to school in this place ive been here since 2010 and i am still waiting for the houses and we were told not to leave.”

Tandi says that she hasn’t spoken to her children about the future because she feels as though there is no future in Blikkiesdorp.

Photo credit: Umarah Hartley "Its like living in a concentration camp."
Photo credit: Umarah Hartley
“Its like living in a concentration camp.”

Estralita van Baalin used to stay in Athlone when she and her family were evicted in 2010. Van Baalin says that 15 people from the 63 families that moved into the area when she did has so far passed away.

She too says that they people in the village are living in Hellish conditions and says that the government promised them housing, but have not yet delivered on that promise.
“All we want to know is where we are going to move to and when are we going to move; the airport said its the citys ground and the city said its the airports ground so it is all very confusing,” van Baalin went further.

“It seems like we are not human beings we are like animals here and it feels like a concentration camp so we just want real answers from the city.”

Photo credit: Umarah Hartley "We are living in bad conditions."
Photo credit: Umarah Hartley
“We are living in bad conditions.”

Samuel Mohoka also known as Oupa is a man in his 70s taking care of a child with a disability. All he wants in his old age is a house to call a home so that he may take care of his disabled grandchild.

“When the rain was coming down it ripped off the roof and the electricity was off so this is not a place for people to live in and there is too much violence in this place,” Oupa continued.

“For six years the elderly have been waiting for houses and not one has been built yet, I want the government to take us this entire place, which is all we want.”

Photo credit: Umarah Hartley "I am so sick that my chest closes up."
Photo credit: Umarah Hartley
“I am so sick that my chest closes up.”

Aunty Katie says that her children and grandchildren are more sick than they are healthy. She has been staying in Blikkiesdorp for almost seven years after she too was evicted from Athlone.

The Cape Town Mayor has till Thursday by which to respond to the resident’s grievances and thereafter further action will be taken.

VOC (Umarah Hartely)

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