• A night in Khayelitsha – on New Years Eve
It was 22:00 on 31st December 2012, I was wearing my “Crap Christmas Present” socks, Michael Jackson had just finished on TV and Rihanna live in Manchester just about to start as I tore open my second bag of crisps. I have to admit, I was a little bored and felt a little bit like I was missing out on a typical New Years Eve, especially as I could hear parties all around my flat; music blaring, and voices and the smell of braai slipping in through the gaps in the window frames.
I was contemplating missing the turn of the new year … but decided that that would just not be on, so once Rihanna had finished I thought I would see what this township had to offer.
Now, I had asked one of my colleagues just the other day what a typical NYE night was in a township and the response had been a little unnerving; “YO Meliiiisssa, New Years Eve there will be MUSIC so LOOOUD, aaaaallll night long you won’t sleep! Guns; there will be lots of shooting in the towns, noise, parties, YO!” 23:58 I was wearing a jumper, joggers, Christmas socks, flip-flops, holding a cup of coffee, standing in my bath looking East out of the smeary filthy dirty window over the rooftops of Khayelitsha. No one needed a watch to know when the clock struck 12 … the whole town erupted in a fountain of fireworks from each and every garden, road or house as far as the eye could see! As beautiful as this sight was, I was a little concerned when I looked down at our neighbours to see the source of the fireworks; someone holding a pole not all too steadily, with the fireworks spurting out the end in which ever haphazard direction the handler was pointing it. Needless to say I started noticing the rather large health and safety risks in a typically British way and the frightening amount of miniature balls of fire that were sailing horizontally in front of my eyes. It was one of those ‘just get over it’ moments so that I could enjoy the experience to its full extent and notice the emotions and excitement within the community, which is felt all around the world on this day. There was hugging, singing, music, dancing … no guns that I was aware of, and still the fireworks continued. 25 minutes later the displays had eased but the partying was still going on. Nothing could have kept me awake though after my day weeding and digging at the farm!
Sadly it wasn’t all joy and laughter that night as it turned out.
“3 dead and 4000 homeless after New Year blazes” were the headlines on the news the next morning. Allegedly a braai stand was left unattended and section BM in Khayelitsha and Dunoon was devastated early on Tuesday morning. This is on the other side of the township to where we are based, but it still affected us as it included two of our child-headed home shacks which not surprisingly, put a dampener on new year elation and conversations. 800 people have been left homeless on day one of the new year. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon scene amongst the shacks in the townhips. It seems so harsh; all their furniture, all possessions and what little money they might have had. How on earth will they be able to rebuild their lives now? So much for a happy new year for some people.