From the posh Village View Shopping Centre in Bedfordview, we drove just a few kilometers away to the Makause Squatter Camp outside Primrose. What a juxtaposition between rich and poor, though the ones who are often caught in the middle are neither rich nor poor.
The Sobering Makause Squatter Camp
Makause is a squatter camp (more officially referred to as an “informal settlement”) located in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in the Primrose area of the Gauteng province. It is located above an abandoned mine and settlement began after the fall of Apartheid in the 1990s.
Over the decades, it has continued to grow and is mixed with both illegal immigrants and some more desperate South African nationals. What was once a proud mining town is now destitute and could not be more different than some of the affluent suburbs that surround it. As was true in Cape Town years ago, it is always the juxtaposition that is more fascinating to me than the poverty itself.
In this area, the traffic lights were missing. Why? They were stolen for scrap metal. Trains were not stopping. Why? The station had also been raided for scrap metal. There’s a degree of desperation that is utterly pathetic and yet many who live in Makause are living better lives than they could in Zimbabwe or Lesotho.
Meanwhile, what were once thriving middle-class communities in the area are now crime-ridden and homes are forced to install a degree of security that is a sad testament to that fact. For example, we stopped at a friend’s house. She lives in California now but her father still lives in the house she grew up in Germiston. Not only is there a sliding security gate to get in, but another gate from the driveway to the courtyard, a guard dog, a secure door into the house, a locking security door between the hallway in the living room, another one halfway down the hallway, and another one outside each bedroom.
And this is not a palace but a middle-class home in a mixed-race neighborhood. Home invasion robberies are a daily threat. There is no exaggeration and most can tell stories of how they have been victimized.
I’m not here to reduce complex issues into trite simplicities. I’m not making sweeping condemnations or unhelpful generalizations when the root causes of the malaise that plagues South Africa require far more than a few hundred words. Here, I am just sharing my own travel experience. But every time I travel to beautiful South Africa, truly one of my favorite countries in the world, I do wonder how long this fragile system can continue.
Only white supremacists construct this kind of “security” to block the oppressed from gathering their reparations.
Incorrect. You clearly have not seen The Last of Us on HBO. They routinely use this type of security to keep out the infected.
Uhm how does the tele, that I baught, with my own salary belong to someone else?
Crime stats in SA is high, very high, believe me, if you lived here, you would make sure you added a little security to your house.
What was the purpose of the visit to the Squatter Camp? Just for tourism/to view it/photo or another purpose (okay if not mentioned in specifics)?
There was another purpose which I won’t get into.
Typical black government who care about enriching themselves and not bothered by the plight of poor south africans. Just l99k at our state president. He was an ordinary person who became a billionaire overnight. These people are pissing on the graves oor Mandela and Kathrada who sacrificed everything to free all South Africans.
Question for you – as bad as Ramaphosa is, might he be better than the alternative? (like Mkhize)
Did you get out of the car to walk around the settlement? Not asking to judge; only because I also drove through the grittier parts of Soweto and struggled internally how appropriate it was to take a closer look. I genuinely wanted to witness and gain understanding but also wanted to avoid “ghetto tourism” so I’m curious how other people approach this issue.
I viewed this area as very different than SoWeTo – much more dangerous (both internally and externally from anti-immigration foes). We had an appointment nearby, but I did not wander through the settlement itself. That said, I would not have been opposed to doing so had time permitted, and not merely to gawk but to better understand the situation. I think it’s rather amazing that South Africa doesn’t really know how many people are pouring in from neighboring countries – these people live off the grid, and yet they all have satellite dishes in their tiny little homes.
Appreciate the reply.
Fair enough; that makes sense. On my own visit, I was ready to go take a closer look but stopped myself when I saw another family striking Instagram looking poses in front of the shanty houses. I hope to have more self-confidence in my own purpose vs. how it might appear to others in the future.
Yes I’m equally amazed at the dynamics at play in South Africa. I remember being struck by how negatively the immigrants were perceived by the black locals. They seemed to blame them for the majority of the crime in the cities. Not to say that the white locals had a better opinion of the immigrants. A very interesting country indeed.
I live in Bedfordview ,stayed in primrose for 12 years I am saying this to correct one thing.80 percent of people in Makause and Rasta squatter camps are locals not foreign nationals,foreigners live in primrose legal or illegal immigrants
Criminals we know them and for certain not foreigners as said that’s is why crime is increasing because they know foreigners will be blamed .my businesses have been robbed more than twice Criminals caught every time and were not foreign, These foreigners you pointing fingers everyday are hard workers ,yes there are bad apples in the basket its not the majority
Neal you lived in Bedford view and Primrose but not in Makause so you must stop pontificating on something you know from a distance. I stayed in that squatter camp an my uncle still stays there. About 50% of the population are foreign nationals from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland. Most ha are illegal immigrants that have integrated with the society. The problematic immigrants are generally Zimbabweans, they have easy access to machine guns as some are former soldiers. Even within the community they live in they have terrorized some parts and stolen, sold drugs and raped some women. You call these people hardworking because you pay them below the living minimum wages and they desperately accept your meagre wages. They accept the money because of desperation and they tend to send the money home where the exchange rate is weaker than the Rand. I am willing to drive you around the area to show you our lived experience
Muzi you couldn’t more wrong my brother, there are little to no foreigners in those two camps you mentioned. I’m a Zimbabwean national living in Primrose and I also lead a group helping suffering Zimbabweans in the area. The only foreign grouping you will find there are probably Sotho people from Lesotho, it’s nostly Tsonga people and other people from Limpopo, unfortunately other foreign nationals are terrified of that place due to things like operation dudula and would never be caught dead living in such a place due to the risks.
Question to both yourself and @ Matthew Klint. Did you ask those human beings appearing in your glitzy world impression pictures for their permission to photograph them or their surroundings! You have satisfied both your dripping wealth, so what next, what are you doing about your colorful paint you delight in and earn more free mileage out of their condemnation from your colonialism ancestors that caused all of this, now your entertainment?
Colonialism. That’s rich.
Calling this a “squatter camp” seems unfortunate to me. Squatting implies they’re doing something illegal, or at least without legal title. Are they? These are human beings, and they appear to be living as normal a life as possible considering what they have been delt in life. If the mine is abandoned does someone else have a more legitimate claim to this land? If so, where should these people, who have been here for a generation now, go off to?
They are – they have no claim to the land and most have no claim to even be in RSA. They literally just moved in and occupied it, the definition of squatting. But though that word fits, I don’t use it in the pejorative sense. My heart breaks for these people and as I mentioned, the fact that this rancid, crime-ridden camp (decimated by fire but rebuilt), presents a far better alternative for many than the countries from which they came is a very sad reflection.
South Africa voluntarily joined the SADC freedom of movement protocol, so to say that people from Lesotho and Zimbabwe have no claim to be there is probably not a fair statement to make. Regardless of immigration status, attaching a name with a negative connotation to a well established community (as South Africa has done) that has been around for 30 years does nothing but perpetuate long held disdain to the poor. Regarding the use of “squatter,” I’d say this is a clear example of legal not being equal to ethical.
That’s not true .no foreign national owns a piece of a shack built in that illegal settlement foreigners are renting from locals,there are landlords in Makause .its politics not what u think ,on your next tour give me an interview, and I can take to places meet people and get the real story asking questions
Reminds me of Citi Soleil, Haiti
I think its great for people to sometimes witness places like this, it should make us stop and be grateful for what we have
I don’t know what’s worse – the rampant corruption and lack of functional law and order that allows places like this to thrive, or the deplorable people who make crime and dishonesty their way of life.
RSA is probably the only country which I have visited and don’t want to return to because of the security situation – crime really is off the scale (I also used to think that about Venezuela but I understand the situation there is improving). I am shocked that such a dangerous place gets so much tourism. When I say to people that I am about to visit a country like Brazil, Mexico, or even Colombia (all of which I consider perfectly fine from a safety/security perspective, at least for someone who has some experience travelling and their appearance doesn’t stand out too much), they typically respond ‘but isn’t it dangerous to visit?’, whereas if you tell someone you’re going to Johannesburg they won’t bat an eyelid, but we’re talking orders of magnitude more dangerous.
Seems that SA could really benefit from a robust public housing plan (e.g. Singapore) to move people from slums to functional yet basic apartment-style living, as studies show that housing conditions/the community around you are huge determinants of economic mobility.
However, I am guessing that government corruption probably prevents a scheme like this from ever taking effect…
If only all countries could be run just like Singapore…
Important to remember that there is no freedom of speech in Singapore.
This has been a promise made to the impoverished by the governing political party to gain votes. Once they have been voted in for the next term the monies allocated to said purpose is pocketed by the politicians and citizens are left to fend for themselves until the next election.
When you guys are bored, try to stay away from our homes. It might seem or look dangerous but it’s a home to us. How would you feel if we infiltrate your own home or even criticize your spending trends or how it looks like cages meant to oppress you into thinking that safe townships are dangerous.
If you got out of that car and took a walk around, you would have learnt more about it. The fact that you would make all those silly accusations about my people without proof. We are a loving community and I refuse to let you ruin our reputation with your useless accusations.
This community has produced doctors, charted accountants, lawyers, analysts and so forth. Be careful before you step on wrong toes.
I’ve lived at Makause for over 20 years. I’m South African. Criminals here are both foreign and local. Primrose police always come here to collect money from criminals, illegal immigrants, illegal miners, illegal tarvens and drug dealers, copper thieves and all.
nice to see you visiting non touristy places….aka the REAL WORLD.
reminds me of my visit 20 years ago to ROCINHA near Rio on a favela tour and seeing the contrast of “wealthy tech” and poor homes in India.
Sharp contrasts….which I guess is becoming more common in the US (again) — tent cities in major cities, etc…
Eish because of situation I stay at makausi squtter camp,and it’s very dangerous but coz of government we stay with kids
I use to stay in Primrose and our electrical cables were always stolen by the people living in Makause, cars being smash and crabbed at the robots which are now intersection without robots because they are removed for copper inside. I had to sell the house and move back to Bedfordview for more peace of mind. Not to say there’s no crime in Bedfordview but in comparison is much better. Not all of the Makause residents are criminals but those living by crime surely terrorize the Primrose community. We had friends from the same squatter camp and they are lovely people. In terms of being occupied by foreign or non foreign people, there’s a mix of both. I also learned that the land belongs to someone who planned to establish a golf course, won a case to take back his land but it has since been a challenge to get it back as government isn’t doing enough to move people there, instead shacks are increasing every day.
Ask yourself a question? Can someone from abroad (immigrant/legal/illegal), just arrive at Makause and settle himself claiming that few inches of land? Makause is completely occupied and many locals and immigrants who lives there pays rents to land lords which are mainly South African nationals.
It’s true that the police collects money there from illegal immigrants, illegal miners, illegal tarvens and drug dealers, copper thieves, etc… You can easily spot them around Makause and surrounding taverns grabbing their tributes around.
They never catch a traffic light, street poles thieves, but they for sure will catch the drivers not stopping at the “STOP” sign at whichwood road for some drinks, and belive me they stand/hidden behind the same street pole light they can’t protect from metal scrapers.
I truly believe there are also good people living there, unfortunately because its an easy/perfect get-away for criminals makes everyone belive the criminals are from there.
I believe we have doctors, engineers and even diplomats raised and grown up there, but just tell us where are they living now and if they ever step a foot at Makause now?