Magazine article New Internationalist

Sweeping the Streets

Magazine article New Internationalist

Sweeping the Streets

Article excerpt

Ahead of next year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Cape Town has begun an operation to clearthe streets of the homeless, the visibly poor and informal street vendors.

In early September, the city's law enforcement officers and a private security company swooped on roadside street vendors, confiscating flags, rugby sweaters and mobile phone chargers.

A group of 600 people who had been camping alongside an inner-city railway line have also felt the flipside of World Cup fever. In June, the police gave them just seven days' notice to leave their makeshift homes and move to a 'transit zone' on the outer limits of the city.

'The police came and gave us numbers of our new houses. They said the houses would be nice and cosy, with electricity, and better than staying next to the railway line,' explains Ayesha Arendse.

The next thing she knew, she and her belongings had been dropped off in the Symphony Way 'Temporary Relocation Area' in the impoverished and crime-ridden community of Delft, over 30 kilometres from the city centre.

'They forced us to come and we don't like it here because there are no jobs or electricity. We have to walk deep inside the bush nearby to collect wood for cooking. We don't like that at all because we have found dead bodies there,' she continues.

Nazley Petersen was forced to leave the inner city bridge under which she had made a home to live in a city-built one-roomed corrugated iron shack.

'They promised us electricity but there is none. They told us we will get houses after a few years, but I don't believe them. I lived so nicely under the bridge. By the afternoon I would already have collected enough money from begging to feed my family that night. …

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