Where government services fail to reach, Tshwane University of Technology students do what they can to help a forgotten poverty-stricken community just outside of Pretoria with food and health awareness campaigns.
The people of Midas are a forgotten community whose geographical placement strangely draws a literal picture of why they are not on the radar of government authorities. The area is hidden away from the public eye. In stark contrast, it is situated next to a developed township called Botshabelo, under the administration of Mabopane Ward 22. The only entrance into Midas is up a steep hill from the side of Botshabelo. You can’t get a view into Midas if you don’t climb up the hill. Once you’re up the hill, you begin to see a rocky and bushy settlement of some 600 huts, shacks and brick houses that make up this community. In Midas, there are no water, sanitation and electricity services. Infrastructure such as roads and health services do not exist. But people have been living here for the last 18 years. Ezekiel Selebogo is the leader of this community.
“I can describe this area as a rural area”, says community leader, Ezekiel Selebogo.
“We are still struggling to get some of the infrastructure… basic needs such as electricity and water. This is a challenge. We are facing poverty and unemployment. We’ve got no clinic here. There is no school around us. There is no play ground for children. There is no service delivery at all in this place. Here, in this place, diseases like HIV and TB… people are suffering from those diseases because they are far from health services”, he continues.
A group of students from the Tshwane University of Technology has seen the plight of the community of Midas. With the little resources they have and through asking for donations they secure food, toiletries and clothes for the residents of the area. On one of their recent outreach efforts, they also brought the residents seeds to help them plant food gardens.
“They need clothing, food and everything. We want to start co-operatives for gardens… for planting of crops, maybe, some cabbages, some beetroot so that people can get a healthier lifestyle on food that is produced from their land. It’s not good just to give clothes and food, and then, the next day there is nothing. So, we must have investments. When people plant they can eat as much as they can. The place is very fertile”, says Sifiso Mthembu, the 23 year-old chairperson of the student group which goes by the name Ngwana wa Iteka.
Together with the community, the group has identified a piece of land where gardens can be grown. But, Mthembu, says some reasons have forced the gardening project to be put on hold.
“Before we can start anything, we need fencing, we need a tank, we need water, we need the equipment to build those gardens for people. We need fencing because, sometimes, people from outside can come in the garden and steal. But if it’s fenced, it’s secure. When there’s nothing, anyone can come during the night and steal those crops. For irrigation of plants we need water. The place does not have water, does not have electricity. The situation is so bad”, he says.
Community member, Liza Baloyi, says her community of Midas is a bush. She is happy for the help they are receiving from the students.
“They help with many things – food, clothes – as we are suffering and unemployed. We don’t have electricity. We have nothing. This is a bush. We’ve had meetings with the ward councilor to say your people are suffering. But they haven’t done anything”, she says.
Another community member says the legality of the area has been under contestation for a long time. But, she says, during election time local councilors demand their votes. Yet, they don’t bring development to the area.
“They say our area is not legal, although we have voted for the councillor. But since we voted the councillor, she hasn’t been up the hill to see us. But before the local elections she used to come to canvass for our votes. We have voted, but there is no development”, says Granny Maluleka.
Where politicians fail the community of Midas, the Tshwane University of Technology students try to help. In addition to helping with food and cloting, they also bring health and wellness education programmes.
“Besides HIV and AIDS, we should educate them about more health related issues. They seem to lack a lot of facilities. They are far from everything. What I’ve noticed about our youth is that we fear pregnancy than HIV/AIDS. If we give more talks about HIV and AIDS and pregnancy, then, I think, we could build a better South Africa in that way”, says Gwendoline Selowa, a Health and Wellness co-ordinator for the Ngwana wa Iteka group.