The siege of a settlement

The arrival of a new informal settlement two months ago is creating unease and an increase in crime for residents in Muldersdrift.

Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) obtained an eviction order in 2015 to relocate the settlement, but nothing was done to enforce the order for three years, resulting in ABSA taking the matters into their own hands, said Phumza Macanda, an ABSA media relations member.

On the 4th of December 2018 ABSA redirected the settlement to Sunset Drive. At first, the newcomers squatted illegally on private land behind Cradlestone Mall. Then Blue Age 60 Properties, owned by ABSA, bought a few hectares in the community to relocate the squatters to a better place, according to Macanda and the Krugersdorp News.

“Residents watched in horror in December as truck after truck full of people and their belongings were brought onto the property,” said Brigitte Paar, a Muldersdrift resident. Other members of the long-standing informal settlement on Elandsdrift Road were also surprised, saying they had no previous knowledge of the move.    

Residents of the older neighbourhood have had to make many lifestyle adjustments, said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous. She said the women now take the long route to the clinic to avoid Sunset Drive. Many members of the older neighbourhood were robbed and beaten during Christmas time, she said. Most of the crime occurs in the dark, the anonymous source explained, and members of the new settlement have been seen walking around at night in the Elandsdrift settlement, making it paramount for residents to avoid leaving any belongings outside their homes.

The newcomers walk on private property and they poisoned two dogs after only living there for one day, claimed Paar.

Many nearby farmers are fearful of being exposed to some of the settlement’s rituals for getting rid of bad luck. The ritual site consists of different-coloured candles and pieces of broken glass. When someone walks near or through the site, the supposed bad luck is transferred onto them, said an Elandsdrift domestic worker.

Being relocated was difficult, said an anonymous Sunset Drive settler, because many of the new informal settlement residents lost their belongings in the process of moving. It seems that their new beginning is not what they thought it would be.  

Many of the Elandsdrift members wanted to strike to resolve this issue and, if need be, throw literal fire at the new settlement, said the anonymous Muldersdrift resident, but they did not go through with it. Some farmers have contacted an advocate in the hopes of redressing the situation, said Paar. 

Doctors without power

Doctors at the Strubensvalley medical practice in Gauteng struggled without electricity on the 14th of January after experiencing load shedding without a working generator.  

The medical centre usually has power when there is none, but their generator was struck by lightning the night before. The damaged generator forced the doctors to cope with load shedding the old-fashioned way, said Dr. Albrecht, a medical professional at the practice.

“At least it didn’t affect us as badly as it would’ve affected a dentist,” said the doctor. The practice’s computers all had ultimate power backup systems and the curtains were drawn to rely on natural light. “If there wasn’t light it would have been a major problem,” he said.  

Not only does Strubensvalley struggle with lightning and load shedding, Dr. Albrecht said, but the power gets tripped somewhere in the surroundings areas, plunging Strubensvalley into darkness at least twice a month.

“It was dark in the waiting room,” said Marie Farmer, an 80-year old patient. It was difficult to make appointments over the phone, because of the electricity-required landlines, explained Farmer. “The receptionists ran around looking for everyone’s folders and you had to fill in additional forms, which was time-consuming. I had terrible sinus and couldn’t wait any longer,” she said. Fortunately, the generator has been fixed, ensuring electricity for the future, said Dr. Albrecht.

Lightning strikes on a daily basis, especially on rainy days, said Challe Gouws, a Sicher Services insurance company technician. In addition, Gauteng is a high-risk area for lightning strikes, according to Morné Gijben in the South African Journal of Science. 

“Think about lightning as a big cloud looming over parts of South Africa. At first, the cloud hung over Nelspruit and now over Gauteng. It’s already started moving towards the Cape, so Gauteng will soon get rid of its bad weather,” Gouws said.