10 May 2007

Inner City Incidents

Last night we almost had an orchestra- a set of drums beaten in tune with the regular guitar as well as an additional guitar, carried by its owner through the streets of the city in a kreepy krawly box, his only possession that he holds onto for dear life.
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!

From the past: click here


almira said...

Looking for a "City of Gold" that reminds me of the people who move to my city of Las Vegas. They all come here thinking that they are going to get rich quick, but a majority of them just end up working a minimum wage job in a casino. I think all familys have an Uncle Eb. Nice post

Zahira said...

mmmm the "City of Gold"
not only do we have other people looking for it but we all in SA see, to be migrating to it...

Ali la Loca said...

I suppose this is the big challenge - how do you provide enough incentives for people to stay in their hometowns/homecountries, where there is work available and the need for willing people to staff positions, both simple and high-management.

This made me think of an article I was reading in South African Airways flight magazine that talked about Africa's "brain drain", that is, the number of qualified professionals that leave the continent each year to study/work abroad, and that eventually end up staying away.

What really got me was the statistic that the number of qualified professionals that leave Africa each year is almost the exact same number of development workers from Western organizations that come to fill in the perceived gaps in these countries.

I think what happens with people like the man you met who come to Joburg (and other cities) to look for work - although they are not the qualified professionals the article was talking about - is the exact same phenomenon as the brain drain. How do you convince people to stay, and should you??

Food for thought, no?