Mamelodi undercurrents

On the whole we feel extremely cared for and safe here in Mamelodi: we are cautious and careful and try and avoid risky situations and the community has been taking excellent care of us.

There is however a horrible undercurrent that not only potentially threatens our safety but also that of all our kind, gentle hard working neighbours: a vicious drug called Nyaope. Nyaope is a blend of heroin, marijuana, rat poison, anti retroviral drugs and bleach. It is the hard drug of choice among Mamelodi youth. Young men hanging around on street corners with bloodshot eyes after their latest fix or awaiting the next are unfortunately a common sight. These are the people Leah is afraid of for our sake and for her own sake. When these youths want their next fix they don’t care if a passerby is black, white, rich or poor: anyone is a target for a fix will set them back as little as R30 and most people have a phone on them that can be stolen and sold to cover the amount.

Mamelodi police say 75% of crimes in the area are substance abuse related. A sad state of affairs for honest, hard working residents.


  1. Detlev says:

    When I heard about your field experiment in Mamelodi on the radio I had contardicting thoughts and feelings. Is it this what white people in this country should do? Living in a shack for four weeks and then go back home? Will this excercise really help break down barriers set up by 400 years of colonial rule, fortified by satanically clever Apartheid architects and town planners? I sincerely hope it will.
    For me the Mamelodi “sleep-in” will make sense if the result is solidarity. As the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano rightly stated: “I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom, so it’s humiliating. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”
    Having this in mind I wish you all the love and solidarity you certainly are encountering in the township.

  2. Asanda says:

    Detlev, maybe you need to be realistic here. These people are not trying to give charity to anyone and quite frankly, not everything is about blacks. Yes, there I said it and I am black so I can’t be racist. Some people travel the world for encounters, how is it wrong that these people chose this route? I am black and I would not be found living in a shack by choice and that goes for all the other blacks who have left these areas for the surburbs. Apartheid happened, true, but in 2013, we should be moving on.

    And oh, yes, they will move back home like you and I move move back home after we have been to other people’s homes.

    • Detlev says:

      Hi Asanda, yes, seeing it as a visit to friends or like a journey (travel) to another country, I do agree with you. In the German language there is a proverb “Reisen bildet” – travelling is educating. This is very true. And an educating journey must not necessarally take you abroad.
      But, “Apartheid happened” is not quite how I see the history of South Africa. Apartheid did not “fall out of a tree” like an accident. The legal cementation of racist supremacy was the sum total, the culmination of many centuries of colonial rule, oppression, exploitation etc. It was carefully planned and implemented not by common crinimals but by (mainly) men who called themselves God fearing Christians.
      Yes, moving on is the right thing to do, but at the same time we should never forget what and how it happened lest we want to see it happen again…

      • Asanda says:

        Trust me, I am the last to forget that apartheid happened and when need be, I make a loud noise about it, but only where needed or justified.

    • Tshidi says:

      Thanks Asanda. Why should we judge them for wanting to go and walk in the shoe of a black woman a little. When we even say”setlhako se utlwiwa ke monga sona” perhaps. For one to really feel that shoe, the only way is to borrow is, adjust a few things and walk a mile

  3. Mamelodi for a Month says:

    Hi Detlev. You make some good points. A friend came to visit us on Sunday and his observations mirror some of your comments: “Perhaps by always focusing on social upliftment, we are maintaining our aloofness. In seeing how people relate to one another in the township, and how warmly we were received when we had nothing to offer, I realized that true poverty is relational rather than economic. Before we come with anything, we have to first come with nothing.” (read the full guest post here: The future of my children is completely tied to the well being and future of our Helper and her children. Escaping behind high walls, private schools and private healthcare is not a sustainable long term solution when our destinies are intricately tied together. Solidarity it needs to be for divided we fall.

    • Detlev says:

      “Escaping behind high walls, private schools and private healthcare is not a sustainable long term solution when our destinies are intricately tied together. Solidarity it needs to be for divided we fall.”
      Yes, I sincerely wish your words reach the ears and minds of all fellow South Africans!

  4. first of all i would like to say thank you to the Hewitts Family for coming to our area and experience our daily base lifestyle that we encounter as shack dwellers. On behalf of the community of mamelodi east i would like to say thank you for putting us on the map and for showing other people who are in a same state of living as you, that not all that are said about this township are True

    Dumisani Mthimunye
    (ext 11 mamelodi east)

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