Monday, June 17, 2013

A day in Khayelitsha

Marina @ HubSpace Khayelitsha

My friend Marina and I met two very interesting local entrepreneurs a few weeks back.

We went to check out HubSpace Khayelitsha - a new project they are working on in one of South Africa’s biggest townships. 

Khayelitsha is second in size only to Soweto with an estimated population of 1.2 million. Khayelitsha translates as 'new home' in isiXhosa and in addition to those who were born there, is home to many people who have migrated from Eastern Cape province, other areas of South Africa and increasingly other parts of Africa. It was my first time to Khayelitsha and it served to be a very interesting day.

Many entrepreneurs in township spaces don’t have access to a formal office area. In this context, the logistics of administration and gaining credibility are sometimes barriers to success. HubSpace is a solution to this problem – they rent out areas on an hourly, daily, weekly monthly or annual basis where entrepreneurs can access a phone, printer, internet, etc. 

It was a great set-up and I thoroughly enjoyed my free trial there that morning. 

Seko & Meli - Hubspace Khayelitsha

Working @ Hubspace Khayelitsha

The day also proved interesting for another reason. While driving in, I saw men on the side of the road holding jerry cans. I wondered what was in the jerry cans but didn’t think much of it.

At the space, we heard singing and looked out through the window. People were holding signs directly below us. The premier of Western Cape Province, Helen Zille was scheduled to be arriving for an event. 

Protest starting... view from the window

We heard warning shots being fired into the air. Outside, police threw someone in a van and it smelled realllyyyy bad. Turns out the protest was on sanitation in the area. Many people don’t have access to flush toilets and have to share portapotties amongst many people. 

In protest, they threw jerry cans full of poo on the Premier’s convoy.

Poor living conditions are a daily reality for many South Africans and an ongoing part of the sad legacy of apartheid.

Protest Aftermath (Photocred to Marina)
Protest Aftermath (Photocred to Marina)
Protest Aftermath (Photocred to Marina)

Every day I am here I learn something and become more aware of how little I know.  

This day in Khayelitsha (seeing a wonderful local entrepreneurship project and a protest for access to basic sanitation) stands out to me as an illustration of the incredible complexity and contrast present in South Africa. 

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