LIFE in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, is difficult, and the high rates of crime and unemployment in the area make it even harder.
Many residents have to sell fruits and vegetables on the streets to make a living. Some young people grabbed an opportunity to make money through the scattered garbage that was dumped in the streets. They clean the streets so motorists can drive smoothly and ask for a donation of as little as R2.
Diepsloot is notorious for being a hot spot for rape and robbery, including car hijacking.
The area, which was occupied by different nationalities, including people from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and other places, was developed with Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses and electricity. However, in need of houses and water, they live cheek by jowl with those in formal houses.
The City of Johannesburg could not reveal how many people call Diepsloot home, but according to this year’s statistics from Worldpopulation review website, about 350000 live in the area.
Residents said they have to walk a long distance when they need help from police as the station is based in Extension 2.
Hoping for customers to flock to her mini-supermarket in Extension 1, Phumza Dineni said she could not operate in the evenings as crime is rife.
“Even last week there was a guy who was assaulted by thieves. They took his wallet and still beat him. This is because there’s no electricity and it’s dark at night. Our problem is crime and houses. We need houses and water,” she said.
The 42-year-old mother of three alleged that police often arrive late at crime scenes as they are also robbed of their cellphones. She added that even emergency service employees are afraid to drive in the area.
“We need to take our patients to Extension 6 where there are street lights. If they drive here they will be robbed of everything. Sometimes, we have to wait until morning to report our cases to police because they are also scared of this place. Sometimes they don’t arrive at the scene at all,” she said.
Last year, about 149 cases of rape were reported in Diepsloot, and 67 murder cases were reported, according to last year’s crime statistics.
The situation was dire for Aseko Mti, who lives in fear after she heard of several cases of rape.
“The problem here is the scourge of drugs among young people. Drugs are behind the increase of crime, especially in winter. Again, there are so many cases of rape in this area. And the victims of rape are also murdered,” she said.
But Diepsloot police spokesperson Captain Tinyiko Mathebula refuted the allegations saying “people were exaggerating. Yes, there are cases of sexual offences and house robberies, but to say crime is rife is exaggerating. As police, we are doing our jobs and patrol in the areas. We are committed to operating in the evenings because crime is committed at night,” he said.
Makgwale Mapopa, 24, said life is difficult for her as she has to buy paraffin to cook.
“It’s a struggle in this area because there is no electricity and we have to buy paraffin to cook and for light, and this is expensive. This is sad because we are unemployed. This situation is also increasing the already high rate of crime,” she said.
In Extension 6, David Ramollo was concerned about health hazards as the rubbish dumped in the streets gives off a terrible stench. Trying to clear rubbish in Lapeng Street, Ramollo said: “We are tired of the smell coming from this rubbish and it’s a health risk for children. This has been there for two weeks now. So we are trying to clean so people can pay us.”
CoJ spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the city has installed communal taps for residents in squatter camps to access water. Modingoane also said Pikitup experienced some labour issues last week, but has been resolved and waste collection started on May 8. He added that Pikitup will work overtime to clear the waste backlog in Diepsloot.
Gauteng Human Settlements spokesperson Keith Khoza said there is an ongoing housing project in Riverside View to benefit residents in Diepsloot.