The Big Threat to Informal Settlements

The Big Threat to Informal Settlements

by Mzonke Poni

More than 50% of people who do not have houses in South Africa are living at informal settlements, and informal settlements have been viewed as a step towards getting a house in South Africa.

Most people when getting to the City from rural areas, most of the time when they come they’ll first squat (live) with their friend, family members or relatives, while they are still looking for a work but once they get a job the first thing that they will think about is to get their own place first so that they can have their own space or privacy. Most of the time people view this option as the best option to jump the queue from the housing list as they know that if they bought a house at informal settlement and when the area is being relocated or being developed they will also benefit as they also owned a house from the area and this most of the time create problem between people who are coming out side the City and with people who have been in the City longer or people who have been born in the City but does not have a house.

One of the most reason why people buy their own houses at informal settlements is because they want to be independent and they want to be in control of their own lives probably because they are employed and they can afford a shack, 98 % of people who bought shacks at informal settlement when they bought it it’s probably they are employed, have source of income or have a financial support base system, whether a person is having a business or a family member will be supporting that person. There are few people that are living at informal settlement who can afford to buy houses for them selves, but chose to live at informal settlement, most professionals such as teachers, nurses etc that are doing this you’ll find out they are doing because they are contract workers, casual workers, others are unemployed.

In most cases all this people will be pushed out of the community by people that they are living with not only professionals but all people who works at better places or people who are having valuable goods at their shacks such as DVD home theatre, Computers especially laptops, good looking phones and other valuable items such as cameras, jewellery, expensive clothes etc.

Not only people who are having valuable items but also people who are contributing meaningfully to the development of people who are living at informal settlements, that is why most of the time people who are living at informal settlements are being represented by people who are not living at informal settlements because people that are coming from informal settlements do not want to play active role as they fear their lives because they are not safe because of the conditions that they are living under off. Most houses at informal settlements does not even have a yard, and the security of everyone is being compromised by the conditions, the areas are very dense.

If you turn to differ with others at a community meeting or you supported a serious decision in favour of others and against others it is likely possible that you become the victim or the target, because of this most people who are living at informal settlement they are happy with the fact that they are still employed and they are still able to provide for their families, because of this they chose not to involve them selves at issues that are happening at a community level not because they don’t want to be involved but because they fear for their lives.

As a results of this our communities are divided, and people sing different songs and as a results of this our communities are being ruled by the thugs. Tsotsi’s (thugs) they do as they please at our communities, they rule our communities. They have big guns and big knives. All these tsotsi’s are known to our communities, they rob a cell phone from one corner and they sell it to the other corner from the same community, they steal a DVD from one house and they will sell it to the other house. They still from the same community and they will sell it from the same community and people are enjoying buying cheap goods from tsotsi’s without understanding that they are destroying our communities.

This has became a big threat to our communities.

From Site B, Town two to Site C, everyone is talking about tsotsi’s and when people talk about tsotsi’s you might thought that they are talking about people that they don’t know whereas they talk about people that they know, when community meeting is called to address the issue of crime, people will not participate or they might surprise you, they can take a total different position and you will be viewed as someone who is having a personal problem with tsotsi’s, and now they will not be called as tsotsis they will be called by their names by the very same people that they were calling them as tsotsis.

If you want to be a target at our communities call a meeting and start addressing the issue of crime and you will be a target, few people will support you but the majority will sit back or not participate at all.

The worst part is these tsotsis will shoot, or kill someone in front of people and no one will come out and say ‘I’ve seen who killed the other person’, and this means your security is being compromised by your neighbour and by your community, this means the are people around you but you are not safe.

When something happens in our communities the first people that we criticized of their incompetence are the police, how can you criticized them when reporting a crime scene and no one saw a suspect or no one is willing to come out and testify against the suspect? I am not sure what kind of communities that we are building, if people does not want to unite and deal with this threat, if we are not taking the issue of crime at our communities serious we are going to lose skilled people at our communities and we’ll always be the victims of the system as there will be no skilled people at our communities to address issues that affect our people such as lack of tapes, toilets and electricity as a results of this our communities will not be developed but be
destroyed by the tsotsis and the system.

If at each an every corner of our communities we can make sure people comes together and fight crime we can be able to build crime free communities and our skilled people who were forced out of the community by uncalled activities can be able to come back to our communities and contribute with skills that they have in order to advance the interest of the poor.

When people address the issue of crime, I am not saying community must be up into arms and try to solve crime with crime, I think when someone is ding justice is doing something that will be proud of where a person will be able to say a justice has been done, but killing someone is not justice, or beating someone is not justice.

The are few options that are available at communities to address the issue of crime.

Before we want to deal with this threat to our communities, first we must understand the cause of crime at communities, because if we don’t understand the cause then we will fight a losing back battle at our communities and we will be frustrated and lose control, as a results of this we will start beating people or stoning people to death with a thought that we are dealing with crime at our communities.

The reality is whether we like it or not crime will not be combated through two popular systems that are in favour of many people at our communities

1. Jail system
2. Community Justice

Jail System.

The jail system is not a good system especially for rehabilitation, instead of rehabilitating a person it only build a criminal. The system is not working and it need to be scraped or overhauled completely. In my view most people that goes to jail are innocent and are being failed by the system. Most of the time people steal things that they don’t need, but for selling them so that they can get cash/money to survive. This means the system has failed that person. It is the responsibility of government to create job opportunities for people who are unemployed,and create skills training program and income generating project for people who does not have any educational qualification of formal educations.

Most people who commit crime at our communities does not have any educational qualification and most of them are unemployed and some of them does not even have matric, they have dropped at high school for certain financial reason. All people who commit crime goes to jail, it doesn’t matter whether you have killed someone or stole from someone else, if you go to jail you all go to the same system, and most people today who are criminals are being built by the jail system, someone make a mistake and stole someone’s television because that person was very desperate for money not even for drugs but for for food, as part of that you’ll find out when people steal things they don’t steal things because they want them, they steal them because they want to sell them in order to make cash. If people steal things because they want to get cash in order to survive, can we really say they deserve to go to jail and mix with big criminals who killed people, and raped people? If we do then what we are doing we are contributing on building stronger criminals, because these people when they are arrested they are being recruited by gangsters, and when they come out of the prison they join or form gangsters, what does this mean? This means by sending people to jail we are sending them to be trained as

The way forward

Everyone does make mistakes, as human beings and we all need a second chance in life. Crime can not be combated through the jail system but through creating employment, skills training program and creating income generating programs for unemployed people. If people commit crime in our communities that person has commuted crime on a community level and that person must be punished on a community level not by sending a person to jail. A person must do a community service for a certain period, and while a person is doing a community service such person must be capacitated with life skills and it should be a must for a person to participate at these life skills programs and also those who commit big crimes such as arm robbery they also need to be given a second chance before people are being send to jail, and when people undermine this kind of system of community service it is then that they’ll need to be send to jail and when they are being send to jail they must face a life sentence, so that people can understand that committing crime is a serious offence, and people were given the second chance. I believe we all make mistakes, and I’ve seen people making mistakes and admit that they’ve made a mistake, and if they had stolen people’s goods they’ll return them and ask forgiveness and people are being forgiven and if it means they must pay back whatever they’ve sold they are able to do that, but if such person was sent to jail that person would not have asked for forgiven, instead he or she would have go straight to jail and it is highly possible that person at jail would have joined one of gangsters.

Community Justice System

This is not a good System of justice but a system of heartless people, who are frustrated and fedup with these uncalled activities, but when looking at this system very close you’ll find out the same people that beat people to death are the very same people that failed those people at their communities, because these people that commit crime in our communities are people that we live with and most of the time these people are being failed by us, community members, they suffer in front of us and there’s no one who is willing to share with them, instead of helping them we gossip about them, most of the time when people commit crime especially at a community level they’ll steal electric wires, phones, do house breaking, steal money, rob people make the community unsafe etc.

They are doing it because they are unemployed and they are hungry and there’s no one is willing to assist them instead of seeing the community as a place to protect they see the community as a place to make money through these uncalled activities and they also joined gangsters, and share the information about their community with other gangsters, they’ll go and rob at other area and people from other area comes and commit crime at heir area, and this makes the community unsafe for everyone.

Way forward

This kind of system can also be prevented by the community members only if everyone cares enough about other human being, part of the challenges will be this so called capitalist system which does not enable people to learn to share with those that they don’t have, instead it create division and competition in our communities.

It becomes difficult for people to help others especially if they’ll will not benefit from the process,in our days people at our communities will only help you only if the is something in return and this kind of attitude is the one that lead those that does not have to join gangster and steal from those
that they have within the community.

Each and every community must accept local responsibility and come up with their community program on how to prevent crime. People who are unemployed at our communities are known by community members and people who are on drugs are known at our communities, people who steals cars are known to our communities, people who are robbing people are known at our communities, then what makes it so difficult for people to manage these issues at our communities, there’s nothing at all but its just that our communities are divided and these criminals they are taking the advantage of such division within our communities, and these people that are committing crime most of the time are not living alone they are living with their family members or their parents.
There’s nothing that can not be controlled and managed at a community level.

In conclusion

1. If government does not finance and empower communities to initiate their own community programs such as skills training and development crime will not be combated at our communities and people on the ground will remain the victims of crime and more money will be spend on building more jails and on criminals.
2. As long as the educational system does not support those children who comes from highly disadvantage communities then will continue having more people dropping out of school before they finish Matric and eventually they’ll join gangsters in order to maintain themselves.
3. As long as government continue implementing these so called neo liberal based policies, that create gap between the poor and the rich, crime level will continue increasing on a daily basis.
4. As long as people at a community level view crime as something that need to be dealt with by the Police, the Police will continue failing community members, because without the help of the community members the Police will always failed our community.
5. As long as people are still under paid at work and the price of food keeps increasing the crime rate will not be tackled, as long as goods are not affordable to certain group of people crime will always increase at our communities.
6. As long certain jobs are not being created , the crime rate will continue increasing at our communities
7. As long as public private partnership is still the option crime will continue increasing at our communities.
8. As long as people are still homeless, unemployed, and are still living under the appalling conditions, crime will not be combated.

By: Mzonke Poni
ABM WC Chairperson