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Feature: White poverty in Coronation Park

19/05/2010

Life is busy in the early morning here in the small settlement of Coronation Park, in Krugersdorp on the outskirts of west Johannesburg. Cats lick themselves in the warm sun and everywhere can be heard the sound of a sweeping broom brushing up the fresh fallen leaves for the coming winter. There is hammering in the distance for home repairs and children start bouncing a ball in the pot-holed street but this is no regular suburban scene. Technically, this is an illegal settlement, or what is more commonly called, a squatter camp.

Coronation Park is municipal land; the residents pay no rent and they eke out an existence in this popular picnic spot for families under the shading pine trees through sheer determination to survive in a country they feel has abandoned them. The residents are white, poor and largely Afrikaans.

Martin Vos, in his late 50s, used to work in the mines earning a good salary but after he had a stroke and was retrenched, he and his wife had to sell everything. His well kept home, with a neat garden, and clean bath is testament to a former affluent life but as he looks out on the camp with his arms folded over his chest he says, “It is quite hard to move from R20,000 a month to R2 a month. It isn’t really something you get used to, you never really get used to it, but you adapt.”

Martin Vos

Willem Saunders

Willem Saunders

A couple take care of themselves

Haircut in Coronation Park

South Africa has changed and it is adaptation that so many white South Africans are forced to do. With a dog house in the centre of Coronation Park with the words Jacob Zuma painted on the side, it is clear those changes have not been appreciated by all. But with some 2000 much larger black squatter camps dotted over the country it is clear that poverty isn’t something any post-apartheid government has come to grips with. South African President Jacob Zuma may have been “shocked and surprised” when he visited the white squatter camp, Bethlehem in Pretoria last year, but really, that just challenges the perception that all whites in South Africa are wealthy. President Zuma needs to implement policies that seek the empowerment of the poor and dispossessed, black and white.

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