Gauteng and NW Province

Why squatter camps …?

By Rick van Rossum
Kormorant 29 November 2012 to 5 December 2012

Yes, why do we have squatter Camps, does anybody want Squatter Camps? I don’t think so, least of all those living in them. Huh you may say? Then why do we have them, why not just close them down and get on with it if no one wants them? Where are they and why? If we have to have them why are they here and not somewhere else, wherever that is? Are we (South Africa) the only ones with squatter camps on our doorstep[s? What did we do wrong to have them right here, where we have to drive past them, whilst looking straight ahead lest we make eye contact.

Who lives there, do we know them? Are they different people, are they even allowed here? How do they live, do they have the basics like water and sanitation and electricity? Is their rubbish collected, what about their potholes, do they get fixed?

Have you ever been in one, guess not, it would be dangerous, not so? So why are they there?

Let me tell you something, it’s not a new thing, like something to punish us for our tragic past. No, they were around long before we did, whatever we did and they’re not only here. I remember driving from the airport to Caracas, Venezuela, back in the ’80s. I was flabbergasted to see all these holes in the mountains, which were quite obviously occupied by people. Know what, there was usually a 4×4 parked outside. Southern Europe is not that different and neither is Asia.

So why are we so upset with these shacks? Of course, they just don’t fit in, they don’t look good and they don’t comply with the township standards and are generally a mess. Services appear non-existent and they often illegally tap into the neighbour’s resources. Lack of poor sanitation creates a health hazard, surely? Yes it does but what about those living with it? How do they impact on their neighbours, those of us living in proper houses, regulated by municipal standards, serviced and maintained to a level way and above those of the Squatter Camps, not so good, right?

Actually where did we get this term Squatter Camps? Maybe because the inhabitants illegally occupy the land that doesn’t belong to them and hence the terms Squatter Camps? I suppose we don’t want to appear to be accepting them as townships and hence the Camps, signifying a temporary occupation.

Really, whom are we kidding? They’re here to stay, until the powers that be provide enough opportunity to allow suitable accommodation in a regulated way and be integrated into society or until the cows come home, whichever comes first.

Actually they are mostly people we already know, some will even turn up at your homes in the morning and work for you. So what’s the problem then? Well maybe it’s the fact that some of them don’t have a job or are not allowed to get a job without the proper papers and far away from home. Well you’ve got to eat to stay alive so what’s their choice, what would you do? So the profit of the Armed Response industry skyrockets, what else is new?

The Solution? There are options of course. Evict and relocate may be the way but the Constitution demands that suitable alternate accommodation is made available, by authorities.

A long and windy road but it’s been done before, although not without great dedication and expense by everybody. Live and let live but do it in a decent and acceptable manner.

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