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Mzansi Tales: ‘Foreigners Take Over Building, Now Sodom and Gomorrah’

Johannesburg – Putrid odours announce the presence of misplaced human waste. Vigilant thigh peddlers-cum-watch persons roam about a decaying...

Johannesburg – Putrid odours announce the presence of misplaced human waste.

Vigilant thigh peddlers-cum-watch persons roam about a decaying building – their eyesight scans, interrogating strangers attempting to invade their domain. 

Their superficial guiltless poses never betray any intended immoral actions. 

By @Comic24Derick 

Adjacent, two men focus on their bed making trade, ignorant to any passerby, but fully equipped to defend their territory, anytime. Informed beforehand, to get access this writer persuaded the company of a man familiar with tenants.

On arrival, my guide claims he is searching for a resident cellphone technician. Regrettably, our target man is away. 

Our mission is doomed. Nobody is willing to let us through. Only the intervention of his daughter-in-law ushered us in. Promptly, we are led inside.

Folklore supposes an outsider wandered into the building. Angered by his unusual bravery, residents allegedly harassed and injured him. But my escort assures my safety. Faithfully, I follow his footsteps. A child strides past – naive of lurking dangers.
Abandoned Buildings have been Occupied in the City
No working toilets – two men are busy scooping raw sewage, transporting it outside in bags. A drunken man relieves himself through an opening. Garbage is dumped via the window. Illegal electricity (Izinyoka) – as per local lingo is sourced from nearby street lights.

Reaching the second floor, we learned that our point man had been arrested. No one offers a reason – we don’t ask – because nobody tells, especially to strangers. 

It is likely his incarceration was violence-induced. A toddler emerges from the door – she promptly greets me – her enduring pain buried under her blameless face.

With a promise to return, we search for another contact at the resident shabeen.

The fast-selling brand, opaque beer flows nonstop. The speaker roars Zimbabwean beats by Thomas Mapfumo – celebrated for his rebel compositions since the liberation war. But none of the imbibers were sired during his heydays back in Harare. Now, they take solace in his music to quell probing homesickness.

Drug usage, prostitution plus crime are mutual vices in such settings. Juveniles gulp cough syrups to suppress their recurrent problems. Rooms are readily available to quench any ungovernable sexual pleasures. 

But one has to be identified and duly accepted to acquire quality services.

At the bar, we settle for a chat. Young men, older than their actual ages due to perennial alcohol abuse. Some have gone for days without a bath from their body odours. The majority originate from a mining town of Kadoma – known for gold panners and errant partying.

As day surrenders to nighttime, residents surface from their ramshackle dens. Crudely erected shacks are readily available from R200 a month. The secret landlord turned the illegal building into his cash cow

Five years ago, the building lay abandoned, unwanted – until homeless folks took over. In a scene equally depicted by the South African biopic – Jerusalem, foreigners outfoxed locals taking over the building along Marshal Street inside Johannesburg.

A contest ensued over its control. Rumours relay that foreigners outstripped locals, taking ownership of the flat. After the victory, many Zimbabwean families now call the derelict place home.

Back home, these occupants left families anticipating regular necessities. The majority, undocumented, indulge in menial jobs, while crime and prostitution are often easier routes. 

Some used asylum documents to work, however stringent rules by the host government have rendered most illegal.


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