Yesterday, 01 June 2016, I visited the Dalton Hostel Beer Hall and the area surrounding it. We have been asked by the municipality to assist in moving and creating another safe space for the children from that area. We will continue to pursue this and it will happen within this year, but that is not the point of this article. While there I visited with the Usizo Lwethu Afrisun Clinic (an outreach from the Denis Hurley Centre) who provide primary health care free of charge to the residents on a Wednesday. They set up their mobile screens and gazebo in among the rubbish that has been dumped in piles all over the vacant site. It has been dumped as there is nowhere else to throw rubbish. There are plenty of squatters, people who are completely down and out living there under the builder’s plastic lean-tos. These people are at the lowest of the low but they are still people and should not have to live like that. The place is a festering pool of disease. There is one tap in the area which means those who want to wash clothes, themselves, get a drink, collect for using in their work, and cooking all have to queue to use it. There is also only one toilet enclosed with an old curtain for privacy. I watched as the patients at the clinic instead of using this ablution to provide their urine sample would choose to stand against a wall. A man came in with blood gushing from a cut on his thumb. He had sliced it while making a Zulu shield nearby. And there in amongst the filth and the rubble the dedicated team from the Usizo L’wethu Clinic assisted him.
On return to my office and inquiry into the situation, I discovered that the land is Provincial owned and therefore the municipality has little or no mandate to clear up and maintain it. It is however in the process of being handed over and the municipality is stepping in. If we are aiming to be seen as “the most caring city in Africa” this were we need to start. Here and places similar. These are people, yes people who have made some poor decisions in life, some who have been abused, and exploited and traumatised so badly that they no longer function as a rational person anymore, but they are still human. These are people who need to be reminded that they are human and that Durban does care and we do want to help and see them reintegrate into society. These people are our challenge. These people are our assets. We need to discover how to allow them to be those assets again. Municipality is going to clear the rubbish this week and is going to look into providing a permanent clinic in the area as well as more water points. But we need to do more, not just say more and talk more actually take action. If you would like to help please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, We have enough assets, talents and passion in Durban to see these challenges become a thing of the past. Let us together face them head on and see them eradicated from our beautiful City.