Part IV

Rose Baifi lives with her husband, William, and two children in a two-room shack in the Zamimpilo squatter camp. They have been here for five years. The family used to rent a shack in a friend’s yard in Soweto, but they got tired of having to pay rent for nothing and she’s happier living rent-free in the squatter camp knowing that any savings she can scratch together can be put towards a home of her own one day.

Rose regards herself as lucky. Her husband works at a nearby factory and she earns a little extra by selling fruit and vegetables to her neighbors. They are better off than most.

Inside her cramped home a small coal fire is burning in one corner. Rose uses it for cooking and heating and the room is so full of smoke I can hardly breathe. A single bed in another corner has a camp bed tucked underneath. Rose and William share the other room, their bed glimpsed through a curtained doorway.

The main room obviously doubles as a kitchen, with utensils and cooking pots neatly stacked together. There is no sink, no running water. The family is obviously very poor, but I can’t help being amazed just how clean and tidy everything is.

Rose Baifi
Rose thinks there are about 4,000 living in the camp in the rows of tiny corrugated iron shacks.

A few yards from Rose’s shack is a communal tap, provided by the local government, and there’s a constant stream of people passing her gate bringing empty containers to fill. Mothers chat and children play at their feet as they wait their turn at the tap.

Water is one of the few basic services the council has provided. It also supplies and maintains the chemical toilets that are dotted around the camp like sentry boxes, and distributes hundreds of giant plastic garbage sacks for all garbage and household refuse.

But basic services do not extend to electricity and once the sun goes down, the residents of Zamimpilo have little choice but to retreat to their shacks and light their candles.

Yet Rose seems quite happy with her lot. Her name is on a waiting list for a house and she is quite confident that, one day, she will finally have a home of her own.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive


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