Lockdown in the Gauteng township of Kilp is a little bit like the popular street game of amathini. It’s rough and ready and there’s a real risk of being struck, writes Sandile Gumede
Near the famous Mall of Africa, alongside Allandale Road, which leads to OR Tambo International Airport, lies the small township of Klipfontein View, also known as Klip.
I have been living here since October 31, 2013, a few days before joining the now defunct Gupta-owned publication, The New Age.
From afar it appears to be a somewhat glamorous place, with “bond houses” surrounding “RDP” homes, as if it was a plan to hide the sham.
The RDP homes are owned mainly by working class people from Tembisa, one of Gauteng’s biggest townships.
These were initially two-room houses with a bathroom, but a few who could afford it have converted them into double-storeys.
Among the owners are elderly people who rely on social grants.
My landlady, 71-year-old Linah Sikhosana, is one of them.
She rents me a one-room cottage in her backyard.
Working from home during lockdown has made me more aware of the many injustices and inequalities in Klip.
I live at 400 Mosina Street.
The road is in a shabby state. It’s never been tarred.
In fact, the only tar to be found in the RDP section is on the main road to the taxi rank. But the road is poorly drained and every summer when it rains it gets worse.
Soon there will be more potholes than tar.
In some sections it’s so bad motorists drive on the verge to avoid potholes.
Drainage seems to have been an afterthought to the crazy planning people, engineers and construction companies who built this place.
What would these indigents want with a properly constructed road? Most of them don’t have cars anyway, they must have thought.
Life under lockdown for the residents of the RDP houses is proving hard.
As one who works from home, I seldom leave my little cottage.
But the other day I went to the Somali-owned shop to buy a heater as it was getting cold. Ideally, I should get under the blankets, but I am expected to facilitate classes online, so it’s not possible.
On my 10-minute walk to the shop, I was disappointed to see kids loafing on Mosina Street or playing amathini.
This is an indigenous game, popular in black communities.
One team must get all the tins in a box or a basin, using their feet. They grip the tin between their feet and then jump to toss them in.
The opposition, meanwhile, tries to stop this by hitting the tins with an “elimination ball” made from plastic waste.
Passing the second group, who I had assumed were all kids, I spotted one of my former students among them.
Why she was not at home, obeying the lockdown rules, I asked.
“Aowa (No), Sir! I can’t stay indoors for the whole day. This is the way of entertaining ourselves,” she said. “It’s boring at home and even TV is boring. So, this is our way to kill boredom.”
My former student has a point.
Long before lockdown there were few places to play apart from the streets.
The only public park is perhaps 10 blocks away from dusty Mosina Street.
Most of the small lawns or yards originally allocated to each RDP house have been used to build cottages or shacks for renting out. It’s a way for the owners to make a living or supplement one.
Across a stream lies Extension 3, the bond houses – for those with deeper pockets.
Here there are few people on the streets.
In Klip the gap between rich and poor is big.
Those who rely most on the government for services are hardest hit by lockdown.
I pray none of the amathini kids contract Coronavirus.
If that happens the disease will spread rapidly among them and beyond.
It will be a disaster not only for them but passers-by too.
You can’t walk down Mosina Street without an amathini player bumping into you. They are forever trying to duck and dodge to avoid the elimination ball.
- Sandile Gumede is a journalist and lecturer. He is a former Roving Reporters intern.
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