The setting, as usual, is an abandoned building, dark and smoky, due to the open fire in the centre of the room. The song is a prayer, of a form very different to which I am accustomed to, but have come to enjoy over the past year. What the bearded ones will think of my being there, I can imagine but care not.
There is goodness and sincerity in this room, of an intensity that I rarely get to witness. Together with what have become fond memories in a fairly short time.
Ebrahim is 60 years old and has been living on the streets for 11 months. He is clearly a stubborn man, especially when it comes to family politics. But regardless of what happened, we are there to try and convince those who can, to get off the streets and make a life.
Uncle Eb: Ok, I guess you are right.
Me: Of course. (I guess the cold of the night, helped my argument!) Whatever happened, your family is probably missing you now and worried about you.
Uncle Eb: I will give you the number, call my sister. Is this soup Halaal, I haven’t eaten the whole day?
Me: I don’t know, but if I was you I would eat it. (I honestly don’t care if it is Halaal or not!)
It’s a busy night, the streets are full. Mr Louw knows a Bilal in Eldo’s. What a character: so drunk so often, that he is actually quite sober and coherent now, even while drunk!
The numbers grow on the street coz of the constant inflow. Rashid is from Ghana. Came down 2 months ago on a ship with 3 others- but still no jobs, no money and no food! Dreams of gold and glitter in the ‘City of Gold’, the economic powerhouse of Africa- clearly not so glamorous after all.
My advice- I visited Ghana last year- Accra, your hometown, is a growing city.
The work I did there for a major bank indicated that there was significant economic growth. Maybe only growth of the first economy, but spill offs must create more opportunities back home than here. Back as a home that you definitely have. With friends and family and everything you know and like. That’s the best.
Accra is better than Joburg inner city!