#eNCAElectionBus: On the road with Xoli Mngambi

The eNCA Election Bus hit the road last week, stopping in Dube first. 

Dube Hostel 

The eNCA Election Bus made its first stop at the Dube Hostel in Soweto.

Among the many residents we met was Doris Mhlongo, a mother who shares her tiny hostel room with four relatives (including an elderly male and two young people in their twenties).

The crowded single room is divided into four bedrooms separated by curtain cloths, which means privacy is nonexistent.

The lack of privacy between adults and young family members is crystallised by the Dube Hostel iNduna, Mr Mnqobi Sokhela, who tells me that “adult activity not meant to be seen or heard by young people has become normalised” because of the design of the hostel. 

The Dube Hostel, like many others across the country, was designed for single male migrant workers who came to big cities to fend for their families.

Old and dilapidated, the hostel was built in the apartheid years, but the democratic government has tried unsuccessfully to move people into what it calls family units.

Millions have been spent on new developments nearby the hostel to provide alternative accommodation, but a rental dispute between residents and the Gauteng provincial government has seen the new building go to waste because of vandalism and criminality. 

There are children running around the Dube Hostel. The place is dirty with puddles of stagnant water all over, add to that a distinct smell in the air coming from enclosures of livestock kept inside the premises.

The sight of children growing up in a hostel reminds me of my childhood days when we would travel from the former Transkei (Eastern Cape) to visit our father during school holidays in the mid-90s at the infamous Glebelands Hostel in KwaZulu-Natal.

Although the single-room design is the same, the fundamental difference is that Glebelands was clean at the time and had a high-rise design as opposed to the Dube Hostel single-storey structures.

Whenever we visited Glebelands, the highlight was always counting the number of planes which landed at the Jan Smuts Airport.

The hostel’s communal kitchen window provided the best view and it allowed us the opportunity to dream that one day we too would fly on the aeroplane, as we called it.

Back to Dube, as we left the hostel last Tuesday afternoon, I wondered if that environment allowed the children to dream or see themselves outside of that space one day. 

A lot of positive change has happened in our country over the last 25 years.

But in some areas, there’s clearly been regression and as we ride into South Africa’s provinces, I’m keen to find out from the young people (in particular) how they’ve experienced the democracy journey so far.


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