Living in Khayelitsha!

If you do not know about this piece of land, Khayelitsha is about 20 kilometer from Cape Town and there are about 2 million people living there. Unemployment is high, alcohol abuse is high, housing is from shacks to good solid houses. Safety is a word that is not known here. This is the scrapyard of Cape Town. Capetonians tend to ignore it or avoid it.

Hansie and Anita made Khayelitsha their home for about two years. They lived in a house in the community in Site B for half of the week and the other half of the week in Bellville. Anita runs her career practise from there. It was a huge challenge. The first challenge is the language Xhosa.

It is not easy to learn to understand this and even more difficult to talk it. So it is tough if you want to talk to someone and you cannot quite express what you want to say.

A brief story to explain something of the need and the culture is the story of the R50 (about 5 U$ in June 2013).

I was attending a Herbalife training meeting in Mitchellsplain (about 10 km away from Khayelitsha). One of our team members gave me cash for Herbalife product and this I placed into my pocket without concentrating very well. Back at Khayelitsha I made a quick dash for the frontdoor of the house. It was dark and you are exposed to the criminal elements when it is dark. I grabbed the house key from my pocket (the same pocket where the money was), opened the house and rushed in. I was happy to be safe! I forgot about the money in my pocket.

The next morning I was on my way to a meeting early. I was at the front gate when a young man greeted me friendly. The gate was still locked and he asked me if I would be so kind as to hand him his R50 note. “Where is your note?”, I asked him. He pointed to a note a few meters away from me. I picked up the note and wanted to know how he managed to get the note there. he explained, “you know, I was walking minding my own business when the wind suddenly gushed and pulled the money out of my hand and before I could grab it, it blew over your wall and into your property.” His friend at his side nodded to confirm this freak accident of nature. I handed him the note still perplexed about the fact that the note was wet and it did not rain that morning.

I was driving tot he eraly morning meeting when I remembered about the cash of the previous night. I did find one of the notes in my pocket. A quick phone call home and Anita and Johan (our son) retrieved the rest of the notes. As I took out the keys from my pocket the previous evening the notes fell out. The dew of the night made all the notes wet.

I was angry because I allowed these two youngsters to trick me out of R50, but the whole episode was also very funny. I had to marvel at their technique and the way they were able to convince me in English that it was their money.

The story, however, is typical of what is happening in the community. If there is any money in sight, then it belongs to the person who has seen it. It could be church, NGO, political party, contractors and for that matter government. If there is a way to get to money people will find it. They will tell you the most believable stories to get to the money and they often succeed.

Money is like a drop of water falling on parched land. It just disappears if it hits the ground.

There are many more stories that I will share, but remember the R50 story!




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