The “forgotten” homeless people of Plasticview in Rustenburg

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RUSTENBURG, June 13 – While many South Africans stage protests demanding water and electricity, a group of around 100 people who live in plastic shelters in Rustenburg, claim they are the “forgotten” people of the North West.

“Those demanding water and electricity are better off than us — we are [the] homeless and forgotten people here in Rustenburg, we do not have proper houses,” Plasticview informal settlement resident Mpase Moeketsi said.

There have been a spate of service delivery protests within the jurisdiction of the Rustenburg municipality in the last few weeks.

Residents of Lethabong Gardens barricaded roads demanding water; electricity; and roads while Lekgalong residents barricaded the Sun City road demanding speed humps. The residents of Boitekong took to the streets to demand that their prepaid electricity cards should not be blocked in an attempt to force them to pay for water

Meanwhile, in the bushes near Protea Park, plastic shelters have been erected with no access to water, and with no toilets. The occupants have to travel for about five kilometres to fetch water at a supermarket in Protea Park.

The road leading to Plasticview is a narrow dirt road, off Dr James Moraka Drive, and the area in Donkerhoek near the N4 highway is known as Plasticview due to the structures people live in.

Moeketsi, 43, and fellow residents of Plasticview were once farm dwellers in the Rietvlei area and were evicted when the farms changed ownership.

He said they moved and then lived at the Kremetart dumping site and had to move when the dumping site was closed down.

“We have been living in this area since 2011. Once in a while we will receive food parcels and blankets from councillors when that is happening you should know the election is around, this is the only time when people remember that we exist,” Moeketsi said.

“They will give you political parties T-shirts and while you walked around wearing that T-shirt you help them to take their election campaign forward. Nobody cares about us when there is no election.”

The plastic structures are built next to each other, and inside the dark, cold structures are makeshift beds and bags of clothes. The lucky ones have a mattress to sleep on and a radio. With a few owning dogs and chickens.

The area is tidy despite it being an informal settlement.

Another resident Matlhomola Khunou said during cold winter nights, they wrap themselves in plastic in order to have a warm, peaceful night’s rest.

The residents in the informal settlement survive by recycling plastic, scrap metal and boxes.

“We go out every day — rain or sunshine — we go out to look for material to recycle in suburbs. On Mondays, we are in Protea Park, Tuesdays in Rustenburg Noord, Wednesday in Safari Gardens and Thursdays we are in Geelhout Park,” another resident Bigboy Ramokoka said.

After collecting the recycling material, the residents put them together and when they have collected enough to fill ten big recycling bags — they hire a van to transport the bags to a recycling depot in Rustenburg and share the money equally.

“In a month we make about R2000 to R2500, it is nothing but at least we manage to buy food, others do odd jobs to survive,” Ramokoka said.

Proportional Representative (PR) councillor of ward 16, Jane Mpolekeng said it was heartbreaking that people live under these conditions after 24 years of democracy in South Africa.

She said the most difficult time is when one of the residents die.

“A man died here and it took five months before he was buried because people cannot afford to pay for a funeral. At one time they wanted to dig a hole and bury a child,” Mpolekeng said.

Mpolokeng said politicians should work together to help Plasticview residents.

“It is not about politics it is about humanity. These people need a place to call home. There is a case at the North West High Court relating to the eviction of these people,” Mpolekeng said.

“The municipality evicted them after they built shacks in Rietvlei near the N4, according to me it was illegal to evict people in Rietvlei and condemn [them] to live under these conditions. The court order allowed the municipality to destroyed unoccupied shacks in Rietvlei not to flatten all structures.”

The case will be heard in the North West High Court in Mahikeng on June 20.

Moeketsi said an audit was conducted at Plasticview and residents were issued with temporary stand cards.

In May, they occupied a land in Rietvlei and were evicted five days later and lost their identity documents and clothes during the eviction.

– African News Agency (ANA)