Sometimes, a better life is not just about material things … it is about dignity.
And for 17-year-old Mbulelo Mayisela, dignity is something he has regained now that he no longer lives in a shack. Until recently, the only life Mayisela, a grade 12 pupil, ever knew was that of a shack.
He was born in shack in the sprawling Madelakufa informal settlement near Tembisa in Ekurhuleni. Now, he lives in an RDP “walk-up” flat in Clayville Extension 45.
“I’m very excited because at Madelakufa, we shared toilets and had to wait for the municipality to come and drain toilets. “It was hard. Even when my friends wanted to visit I would not allow them to.
I felt the pain of always lying to people about my living conditions because I would tell them that I lived in some beautiful areas around Tembisa. I would tell girls that I was only a visitor at Madelakufa.”
“I proudly tell them that I live in Clayville Extension 45 and even invite them to my new home,” he said with a beaming smile. Sibusiso Dlamini, 18, and Sonwabiso Phoswa, 18, also lived in Madelekufa and shared the experiences of deprivation and poverty of Mbulelo.
They remember the difficulties they encountered during rainy and windy seasons. Today, they no longer have to use primus stoves – their families have electricity.
And they can open a tap for hot or cold water and no longer have to walk to fetch water in buckets from communal taps or water tankers. Sibusiso will never forget the day he moved into his family’s new home. “The first day I arrived here, I took a hot water bath and sat in it for two hours.
Now I have bathed … not that thing of having to cheat myself. When I am in the toilet, I relax and enjoy myself, because I know that no rat will disturb me and that it will not eat my food as well,” laughed Dlamini. Sonwabiso, a grade 11 pupil and a future IT specialist, used to live in a two-roomed shack.
He recalled: “Life was tough because if one person had to take a bath we had go and sit outside and then come back after that person had taken a bath.”
He felt the same pain as Mbulelo – the pain of embarassment at living in a shack and trying to hide that fact from friends and people he met. “Now I can tell people where I stay and I don’t get embarrassed,” he said. Youngsters living in the City of Ekurhuleni will benefit massively from the R8.9 billion invested in different projects by the City.
The City’s Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Human Settlements, Lesiba Mpya, said: “We have taken a conscious decision as a department to emphasise the 30% preferential procurement that is legislated for the youth. “We want to put our money where our mouths are. We want to ensure young people get sufficient space.”
Mpya told Mbulelo and his overjoyed mother, Christina, they deserve to live in better homes.
“You are our people. This is the least we can do as government for the people. Our main concern is the young generation and the fact that they should be educated,” he said.
Mpya urged Mayisela to work hard at school and obtain a good matric so he can apply for a bursary to university.
Mpya said the purpose was to prioritise those who had been on the housing waiting list since 1996. But he noted it was difficult to identify young people on such lists, unless they were orphans whose parents died while waiting to be granted houses.
Granting such children decent homes is restoring their dignity, said Mpya. “I think anyone who is human will be able to say it’s an emotional process that one is unable to explain.
It is the beginning of the five-year term, but we have done much and we are comfortable that we are going to achieve our targets,” he said.