Crowded in Between a Landlord And Fear of Xenophobia in the Streets of South Africa. Photo John Robinson
The Madiengua family lives in an overcrowded flat in the Point area of Durban, South Africa or “Little Nigeria” as it is locally known.
This family lives with their personal belongings packed in plastic bags in case of immediate eviction by the landlord of their building in the Point area of Durban, South Africa, Paty Madiengua stands with his wife Yvette and 4 children L to R Ephraim (15), Sabrina (14), Geffrey (10) and Genesis (2) in the kitchen of their flat ready be on the move again.
Yvette comes from the village of Buta in Oriental Province, DRC. her parents were killed by the DRC army, she escaped to Kinshasa with her brother and sister where her brother went missing. Yvette met Paty who worked as an egg vendor on the streets of Kinshasa and followed him to South Africa with their 4 children.
Paty works the night shift as a security guard in the city and Yvette sells clothes on the beachfront. Mr Madiengua’s salary does not match up to the rent on their 14th floor flat, the landlords in the area are getting rid of families on the overcrowding rule. While the Madiengua family feel safe in their flat they struggle to keep up with the rent and the cost of a family and they are “fearful of the xenophobia in the townships”.
“If You Are Foreigner Man Living in Durban This Program is Gonna Help you to improve your health and to prevent some kinds of diseases which can lead you to early death…”
The late winter sun and the sound of hustling taxis filter up through the window behind my back. I know Dr Emmanuel Tshimanga as a Congolese parking attendant at a local shopping centre here in Durban, South Africa.
The man in front of me glows with an inner light, he has such piercing eyes. he is now doing what has been bubbling up within him. Dr Tshimanga trained as a doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo and now just waiting for his South African Health Council number to practice as a doctor in South Africa. He is here today advising fellow foreign men on how to cope with their health.
The tall figure of Dr Tshimanga flows without effort between French, Swahili and English using voice, eyes and hands to get the 3 men to my side up to speed on handling stress in their lives.
I will come back for pictures when I have the consent of the director of the Denis Hurley Centre and the men in this room. For now, I am just seeing my friend in a new light.
I now have some European editors in waiting for my proposed inner Durban City stories.
But without connection and trust, these stories will never touch down on sensor or film, so today is about connecting with a friend and building trust for tomorrow.
Like Pop Eye I have a thing for spinach, it gives me the iron that I need in this life of mine. I can so consume it with ugali and chicken, but I feel a lot too like a lone rhubarb in the greater spinach patch. I feel for the rhubarb, it’s tart. Rhubarb is colourful and different to its green brothers and sisters and yes sometimes I too need a bit of sugar to go down.
Life sometimes just happens. I did not plan to be kissed on the lips and just accepted as a friend when I was doing a story in a Gay community, or seeing how in the midst of the horror of the Dafuri genocide people of differing beliefs could also work together for a common good… but I did.
It took the reading of Zen Flesh Zen Bones for me to have a fresh window on the greatness of the Creator, and it took the hug of a Roman Catholic nun in the City of Atbara to undo my own sense of otherness to her form of our shared belief.
The writer of the Gospel of Luke says that ‘He’ had a special thing for the town tarts; and there is no mention the ‘evil gay community’ in any of the gospels. Instead there is vitrol for the religious, and a big up for the ‘Good Other’ who looked after a man beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when a local priest and a religious leader walked on.
I guess that I will never have the answers to all of this world’s problems; The Creator is just that, the big brain, and all of us are just little brains. While chasing for all of the answers is a fool’s game, just loving people rather then being consumed by hate and fear is not… JR
Hate, fear and love are also 4 letter words; and by another 4 letter word, if I don’t grapple with their out working each and every day of my life.
H is now a friend of mine; she lives just off South Beach with her husband and works in her brother’s restaurant at the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street across from the old grave yard. She makes a petite Ethiopian coffee that my homeopath should never know about, and with its clove infusion is my favorite shot of down town coffee. Her brother’s restaurant is a scent filled alcove, without a menu he serves meat and salad on a plate of injera; a sour flatbread from their home in Ethiopia. H’s coffee is roasted and brewed on charcoal in front of me, she serves it in fine porcelain that her friend G sells alongside the coffee beans from the highlands of their homeland. It is because of local ‘hate of other’ that the brother has said no to photos of H here, it is out of respect for him that H quietly shook her head to me when I took out the M6 just off this road in down town Durban.
F is fearful and is still the victim of a brutal hijacking about 3 years ago. F can’t go out at night alone, and has panic attacks in dark places.
Fear is so debilitating, it’s a part of the psyche of many people who I know around me. As an age we are preoccupied with the concept of ‘safety’, America has a department devoted to the safety of their homeland. South Africa is devoted to the issue of their ‘crime’. For all our other advances we are not a people of can do but a people of can’t do due to our fear. I would like to be able to take F for a walk along a down town street, to sample coffee with clove, I feel that it will be awhile yet before F is ready to browse for porcelain on Dr Pixley KaSeme Street. F’s fear is real, I can see it; there is nothing put on about it.
I will always love X, L and Y. But I lost my temper with L a long time ago, I did apologise and I am so sorry for what I did.
L is deeply hurt and I have to love from a distance. I live with these consequences and now know that love is not a fluffy thing. Love is deep like a river, it has a power of its own, and I have to love for all of us for now.
I will never stop loving and doing what I can for X, L and Y. I will continue to walk along side F and maybe one day we will go browse for porcelain together. I will be a friend to H and all others in little Addis Ababa on the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street.
Names have been changed to protect all those involved in this down town walk of mine.
Fear of the other took the United Kingdom out of the European Union; this takes me back to the Roman Empire and the Huns on it’s eastern frontier, and the ongoing mistrust between the sedentary and the nomad.
Both peoples have a thirst for land, and we all live in the same village now, it’s called Earth.
Understanding is a good antidote for fear-of-other or xenophobia. No country is really an island in the end. Humankind will have to live together, and just get to understand each other in our midst…