South Africa

Disenfranchised – An Election Series

‘We live like peasants in our own country’ – tales from the forgotten people of South Africa

‘We live like peasants in our own country’ – tales from the forgotten people of South Africa
Gweva Honose with his two younger children 17 year-old Xolisani and 21 year-old Siviwe Arosi. Photo: Bheki Simelane

In the months leading up to elections, Daily Maverick will tell the story of those people who feel disenfranchised, who for years have waited for their lives to improve but who find themselves still living on the edges of society. Meet the Honose family who lives on the banks of the Klipspruit River in Kliptown.

Gweva Honose, 58, stands at his pigsty, a few metres from his small three-roomed shack, on the edge of the Klipspruit River in Kliptown. It’s raining, and he should be indoors but the rising water keeps him watchful.

I am always on the edge when it rains,” Honose says, “I can’t go back into the house. I feel like when I’m standing outside, somehow I’m delaying the river from swelling up fast.” It’s already been raining for days when Daily Maverick visits Honose and the risk of flooding in the area is high.

A swollen Klipspruit River following incessant rain in Johannesburg. Photo: Bheki Simelane

To get to his house, Honose has to trudge through a sea of dark, stinking sludge.

If you have no good reason to step out of the house here, you stay indoors unless you are prepared to wade into the mud,” says Honose.

It’s been almost three decades since his arrival in Kliptown, yet Honose and his family – his wife, Thandazwa, 50, 17-year-old son, Xolisani Arosi, and his daughter, 21-year-old Siviwe Arosi – still live in squalor. They use a pit toilet, candles for light and a paraffin stove for cooking but they often sleep on empty stomachs because they have neither food to cook nor money for paraffin.

The small 3 room shack the Honoses have called home for nearly three decades. Photo: Bheki Simelane

Xolisani is in school currently in Grade 8 in Bongolwethu Secondary School in Soweto but Honose is not sure for how much longer he will be able to keep him there. Money is always tight for the unemployed, subsistence pig farmer. It wasn’t always this way. Several years ago he had 144 pigs and made enough to feed his family by selling them in Germiston, Eastern Cape and Soweto . Then the SPCA arrived and confiscated them – he doesn’t know why and never got them back.

Gweva Honose’s pig sty. He has had to start from scratch after the SPCA removed 144 pigs from him. Photo: Bheki Simelane

If I were to tell you the story of this place… we live in seclusion from the rest of the country,” said Honose who claims to have done “everything to get an RDP house” from the provincial government. “The only thing left now is for me to go to Pretoria because that is where all the main offices are.”

Our houses were sold. I located my house through the house number but when I got to number 666, also here in Kliptown, it was occupied,” claims Honose, adding that speaking with the provincial department brought little joy.

We live like peasants in our own country. We are treated like we are non-South Africans yet we are expected to vote. Even our committee representatives get no responses from the department,” Honose says.

When contacted for comment on the status of Hosose’s house application the Department of Human Settlements said the department had no record of Honose’s application or house allocation.

Gweva Honose has kept a record of his attempts to benefit from RDP housing. Photo: Bheki Simelane

Please note that the ID number of the person referred to reflects no record found from our system, which means that the beneficiary needs to go back to the local office where they applied to update their information,” an email from the department’s spokesperson, Zimasa Olajide said.

Efforts to contact the area’s councillor Pam Sibanyoni for comments on residents’ long-standing housing and service delivery woes failed as her phone was on voicemail for days.

Honose arrived in Kliptown in 1990 from the Eastern Cape. His five children were all born in the area even though three of his older children have given up hope of finding employment and returned to their ancestral home in the Eastern Cape.

Honose prefers to call the area he lives in “Charter Square”, which he says was the name given to the area by late former president Nelson Mandela.

Not far from where Honose lives, the Freedom Charter – seen as the cornerstone of ANC policy and the foundation of South Africa’s 1996 Constitution was adopted in 1955.

Mandela would be gutted if he were to return,” said Honose.

Gweva Honose’s daughter Siviwe Arosi wipes a basin she has used to wash dishes. Photo: Bheki Simelane

He continued: “We love our government but we are often treated with disdain. Kliptown has such a rich history you would expect that they would treat the area with some decency.”

Kliptown is considered one of the oldest urban settlements in Joburg established in 1903 through the consolidation of two farms, named Klipspruit and Klipriviersoog, according to the Johannesburg Development Agency.

Despite all his tribulations, Honose, who believes the government and its different departments are failing ordinary people, said he will by no means let his voting right slip.

Of course I’ll vote. That is my right. That X represents my family name, my name. Staying away from the polls will be the same as venting my frustrations on myself.”

As he speaks, one of his two dogs chews on a clean bone. “He must be starving. We feed them leftovers but we haven’t had anything to eat in a while so the dogs starve too.” DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Become a Maverick Insider

This could have been a paywall

On another site this would have been a paywall. Maverick Insider keeps our content free for all.

Become an Insider
Elections24 Newsletter Banner

On May 29 2024, South Africans will make their mark in another way.

Get your exclusive, in-depth Election 2024 newsletter curated by Ferial Haffajee delivered straight to your inbox.