Nobody cares about us shack dwellers


Nobody cares about us shack dwellers

Zama Ndlovu and Hlengiwe Jwara
December 22, 2005

By Zama Ndlovu and Hlengiwe Jwara

Losing one member causes so much pain in a family, but how about losing two at the same time? That is what almost happened to the Jwara family.

Last Sunday evening, two brothers were stabbed in the Kennedy Road informal settlement. Zothani Jwara, 22, died instantly. His brother, Scelo Jwara, 20, was seriously wounded. When we heard Scelo Jwara’s cries, we immediately called an ambulance. We were told it would come soon. We waited for about an hour and called again, and the dispatcher told us that there were no ambulances. As soon as one arrived, she said, they would send it out to us. In the meantime, we had to wait.

Most people had already started calling Scelo Jwara a corpse – it was clear to everyone that the boy could die at any time. We were all losing hope. There was a chance that the ambulance might come after time, but Scelo Jwara couldn’t wait. And then God sent an angel to save his life. Two and a half hours had gone by when we spotted an Indian man going toward his car.

We asked him for help. Scelo Jwara was covered with blood and was sleeping on a muddy place, but the man didn’t complain that the boy would dirty his fancy car. He took the boy straight to Addington Hospital, where Scelo Jwara was admitted. He also helped us to come back home, late at night when there were no more taxis.

Without him, Scelo Jwara would have died. Normally, when we phone for an ambulance, we’re told to wait. And you have to keep calling.


If you don’t keep calling, they don’t come. But we know that if we go to Dodoma Road, if we pretend that we are Indian or coloured and don’t live in the jondolos (shacks), the ambulance comes much faster. Perhaps they don’t care too much about our lives, because we stay where we stay. We face the same trouble every day. When we try to find work, they ask where we stay, and when we tell them, they are shocked. They say they will call you if there is work. They never call. The criminals killed Zothani Jwara for his cellphone. They killed a good man just for his cellphone.

Jwara was born in Umzinto, studied hard, and completed his matric last year. Because his grades were good, he came to the jondolos after that to try to find work in Durban. He was working at Dynamic Security, and was stationed in Alpine Road. When he was killed, he was on his way to work. Just a young man with so many hopes in life. He was studying with the security company. He wanted to be a security officer.

Jwara will be buried on Sunday, in Umzinto. He leaves a six-month-old boy, Sbuyile. The child can’t come and live with us in Kennedy Road. Everything is so much more expensive than in Umzinto, where his mother is. And, yes, there is crime here. To be honest, the crime rate has risen here because of the festive season, because it is Christmas. The criminals don’t work, and they know that the workers receive their bonuses now. The majority of people can’t find work in the jondolos, but we know that is not a reason to kill. And especially not for a cellphone.

It’s very hard, though. When you receive a call, you sometimes have to look to see who’s next to you before you answer. The cellphones are so expensive – it costs R1 000 for a new cellphone, but after they steal it, you can buy it for R100. People buy the stolen phones because we can’t afford any other way of talking, even though we know that we are helping the criminals by buying their stolen goods.

How can we find work? Unemployment and poverty is a much bigger and much more deadly crime. If only our government can create more jobs, things will be better. While we wait for jobs, the police must protect us, not ignore us or abuse us.


When you see someone committing a crime, you call the police, they are arrested, and then they are released. They find you out. The criminals find you and say: “You think you’re clever, you saw me? I’ll carry on doing what I’m doing, and the police are my friends.”

For example, one of our sisters had a child who was raped by a man. After a few months, they went to the court, and after a few days, the man came back. It was only a young girl, 9 years old, and now the man is back. The police didn’t take any action, because the child couldn’t identify the man. She couldn’t identify him because he cut his hair before he went to court. The case has disappeared.

We’ve never had justice, it’s very unsatisfying here. No one has been arrested for the stabbings. We’ve heard nothing. The police didn’t go to hospital to ask Scelo Jwara any questions. They don’t care about us. That’s why we can’t rely on the police. The law must become a little bit harder on the rapists, and we must have jobs, so that our children can feel safe to play. It’s hard for the children to play now – we have to lock them indoors.

For them to grow up with open minds they have to go out to play, and at the moment, it is too unsafe. This could be a good place to stay, if we had what we needed. But at the moment, government services, even the emergency services, don’t come. And until they do, still more good lives, and more children, will be lost this Christmas.

Hlengiwe Jwara, Zothani Jwara’s sister, and Zama Ndlovu are both residents of the Kennedy Road informal settlement.