My name is Headman Gqokoma

Yesterday we met Wilson & Dorris Dumezwemi.

I am grateful for every single response.

Except for the response from the councilor (clr Xolani Bisset, ward 27, Soweto-on-Sea) who is, in terms of ‘democracy’, supposed to be these people’s representative.

But does not seem to care too much.

About the ones whom he represent.

‘It is unfortunate.’

A sentence I heard a few times today.

This morning, as clr Bisset shifted the blame to the door of the HDA (Housing Development Agency).

This afternoon, when finally I was able to speak to someone at the HDA.

But he cannot be named.

For the HDA does not allow their employees to speak to the media.

But they do not have a media-liaison either.

So no one speaks.

Although they are aware of these 43 families.

They know of the ‘unfortunate’ situation.

‘This is not just about a roof that needs to be put back on a house, sir,’ I explain as politely as I can while rightious anger boils inside of me.  ‘This is about real people who have lost everything they managed to scrape together in a lifetime.  Who is going to replace their carpets?  Their kitchen cupboards?  Their destroyed furniture?  Who is going to paint the inside of their house?  They are living of a meager old age pension.’

‘Yes, it is an unfortunate situation,’ the man says.

‘The HDA is tasked with doing the structural work.’

The councilor (clr Xolani Bisset, ward 27, Soweto-on-Sea) said the same this morning: ‘there is no budget for that.  it is unfortunate.’

Not, ‘I am as upset!  I will fight until I have nothing left in me, but these people will be restored!’

That would’ve been nice.

That would’ve been just.

As we walk the streets of Soweto-on-Sea, I wonder about the democracy to which we have sold ourselves.

I wonder if it is really meaningful?

If it is really freedom?

I wonder if it would not have been more meaningful if we elected people instead of voting for a political party?

I wonder if, then, we might not perhaps be represented by someone who actually cared about us?

At least.

Tonight I would like to introduce you to Headman & Julia Gqokoma.

They too moved to Soweto-on-Sea in the late seventies.

They too were grateful when they received a new brick home in the late nineties.

They too were convinced to move from their home.

Months ago.

They too have lived in a corrugated iron shack.

Throughout winter.

The wettest winter Nelson Mandela Bay has seen in decades.

And Spring.

Headman made his living as a driver.

He married Julia in 1965.

They had five children.

They’ve stood at the grave of two.

They now cherish the enjoyment of sharing life with six of their grand-children.

Headman is as old as Wilson.

He is also retired.

He & Julia has also lost everything.

Not just possessions.



A belief that somehow life could be better.

At night they put out mattresses for their 6 grandchildren who now share their shack.

The space is clean.

It is as tidy as it can be if your living space is reminiscent of a bomb site.

I know injustice is everywhere.

Does that mean I must shun it from my mind?

Get in my car.

Watch Isidingo.

Ignorance is bliss?

They once had a bathroom.

Now they wash in a battered basin.

‘It is unfortunate.’ the councilor (Xolani Bisset, ward 27, Soweto-on-Sea) says.

‘You must remember it is only a few families.’

If it was even one family, it would have been too many.

Last night I dream.

This morning I am grateful for so many who suggest ways of coming alongside Wilson & the 42 other families.

So here is my suggestion.

Lets drive to councilor Bisset’s place, tell him we’re going to take the roof off his house, remind him he has seven days to move his stuff, then move him into a shack & leave him & his family there for six months.

And from his place we go to the HDA bosses.

And from there to the owners of Eldorado Construction, the company who won the contract to be the principal contractor on this job.

Who did not care how long whoever lives in which way.

As long as profit is made.

And once we have him & his family in a 3 meter x 3 meter shack, then we can go to the 43 families of Soweto-on-Sea & try to get a roof on their homes.

Restore their lives.

His name is Lexy.

The owner of Eldorado Construction.

It is interesting how impossible it is to get names & contact details.

Interesting, how everyone protects the other, in the chain of income & profit & wealth.

But no one protects Headman.

Or Wilson.

Or the 40 other families.

I hope tomorrow I’ll be able to speak to him.

Lexy of Eldorado Construction.

‘You must be careful,’ the man on the phone tells me.

It will be unfortunate.

If you get the wrong people angry.

And I think of Headman & Julia.

Who aren’t angry.

They’re not pitching somewhere with sticks & rocks.

They’re not putting anyone out of their homes.

They’re not burning anything.

They go to be in their 3 x 3 shack, built from rotten sheeting.

They sleep with their grandchildren in their arms.

And tomorrow they get up.

They clean their space.

They feed their dependents.

Love them.

Care for them.

Even though no one cares for them.

It truly is unfortunate.

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3 thoughts on “My name is Headman Gqokoma

  1. Pingback: there’s movement in the streets of soweto « Sevencitys' Blog

  2. Pingback: Gratitude Street Bash « Sevencitys' Blog

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