Voices from the township: A community’s plea for change

Cape Town - 120312 - A aerial view of an informal settlement near Nyanga. Photographer: Armand Hough/ANA

Cape Town - 120312 - A aerial view of an informal settlement near Nyanga. Photographer: Armand Hough/ANA

Published May 31, 2024



In the heart of the township, the residents’ voices echo with a mixture of hope, frustration and a desperate need for change. If President Cyril Ramaphosa were to walk through their streets, he would be met by a tapestry of stories that highlight the daily struggles and dreams of the vibrant community.

Among the first to speak is an elderly woman, her face lined with years of hardship. “If Mr President came to the township, I would be pleased,” she says, her voice trembling with a blend of hope and weariness. “My only cry to him would be concerning hunger because we are starved and there is no employment. Otherwise, I would be very happy!”

Her words encapsulate a simple, yet profound, plea for the most basic of human needs – food and work.

A few steps away, a young mother cradles her child as she speaks with urgency. “There are many things I would do,” she begins, her eyes reflecting a mixture of determination and frustration. “Mostly, I would ask him about the bad things happening around the township. The community halls and playgrounds for children are in disrepair. There are no safe spaces for our children to play. Crime is too much, and the police do nothing but demand bribe money. The community is not safe. We need facilities that the president must address.”

In a nearby alley, a middle-aged man stands beside a makeshift water container. His anger is palpable. “The president must fix everything he has messed up,” he says, his voice rising with each word. “We are crying because the municipality said they would not increase rent, but our statements show increasing debts. There is no water, and we must go to the ‘mozabalazo’ to get it, while the municipality demands money for water we don’t receive. He must fix these issues and stop cheating people.”

As the sun sets, a group of young men gather around a small fire. One of them steps forward, his face a picture of despair. “Our children have gone to school and received certificates. Today, they are in dire poverty, turning to drugs like nyaope because of it. Even educated youths struggle to find employment. They spend their days looking for experience, but how can they gain it fresh out of school? Mr President, pull up your socks! It’s bad out here, we are starving.”

Finally, a woman doing laundry under a makeshift shelter speaks, her voice carrying the weight of her daily struggles. “First, the way we are situated is not okay. We are clustered. I would tell him to place us nicely and give us RDP houses. We need a proper place to fetch water, like other areas. Sharp!”

The stories weave a vivid narrative of life in the township, where necessities, safety, proper infrastructure and opportunities for a better future are desperately needed.

If President Ramaphosa listened, he would hear a community crying out for urgent action and compassionate leadership.

The voices of the township, though tinged with despair, are united in their call for a brighter tomorrow.

Bongani Nicholas Ngomane is a PhD student at Wits. Picture: Supplied

Bongani Nicholas Ngomane is a PhD student at Wits, specialising in applied drama and public performance ethnography.

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