A SAFETY precaution or a beautifying measure? For many Soweto residents, placing big and small boulders outside and around their homes is a bit of both.
The Star visited Diepkloof Extension, Pimville Zone 6 Extension (also known as Bester), Mofolo and Orlando East and along most of the streets in each of the areas, residents have adorned their front yards with at least two to five rocks.
“Car crashes,” Humphrey Dhlamini promptly answers. Dhlamini moved into his home in Bester in 1987. Back then, he recalls, car accidents were a big problem.
“We put these boulders outside our homes to feel safe … We had reported our problems many times to the city council and finally they put in speed humps.
“But we won’t take the boulders out because it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says.
Every house along the curving road on Nongawe Street in Bester has boulders stacked outside the yard.
Some are painted red, yellow, black or pink, while some are surrounded by plants and flowers.
The boulders are also used as rest stops – some residents walking along the streets put their loads down and sit on them when they take a break.
But this does not sit well with many homeowners.
Like some other residents, Puni Lebego, who lives on Kamela Street in Bester, has poured oil over the boulders in her yard to prevent strangers from resting there.
“These youngsters like sitting on the rocks and it could lead to mischief.
“I put these boulders here around 1988 or 1989. After I moved in, I didn’t have a wall around my house. I got home from work one day and found a forklift truck had rammed into my house wall.
“The person must have been driving fast and could not negotiate the corner of our street and went straight into my house. Ever since then, even though I have a wall around my house, I’ve had these boulders as extra protection,” Lebego says.
There are still accidents on their street, she says, because the road has a sharp curve on the corner and drivers normally turn at a fast speed.
While Bester’s streets have many speed humps and road signs, speed regulating measures in Sekhukhuni Street, Mofolo, have done little to stop people from driving recklessly.
“We have changed our fence countless times. Drivers speeding on our street used to just run away from the accidents they caused at our homes.
“A stop sign was even put up on the four-way stop recently, but people just drive over it. Some people also spin cars at the four-way stop.
“We hired a tractor to bring these boulders here because the problem of drivers going into our homes is bad,” says Zandile Tshabalala who has lived in the area for more than 40 years.
There are six boulders in front of her house.
“What’s worse is that children get hit by these reckless drivers. These rocks are here to protect us and our homes,” she says.