We are collected by a local police officer to go on the Durban Night Tour. The sun was setting as we drove towards the ‘hostel’ area made up of government housing, a mass relocation of people. It looked like a ghetto and it was evident that South Africa also had housing problems, but on a different level. Left over from the apartheid, these were now full of people waiting for permanent houses, which the government provide, including the deeds to those earning under RND2000 per month. The houses cost RND25,000 and the progress of the re-housing has been slow and full of complications. Another broken and mismanaged promise. “Policies are set easily but there is no structure to action and manage them.”
We drive into a slum area made up of shacks, which are stacked closely together. It is dark and I think of Kowloon Walled city in Hong Kong, a lawless and gang run area of the city. The tin houses go on and on. They are packed in tight. We are told that there are multiple deaths due to the extreme heat, and the fact the ‘tin huts’ turn into actual ovens in the mid-summer heat. They look like small cargo containers with metal bars across the windows.
We drive to another area where people are waiting for government housing, moved out of their homes because of the 2010 World Cup. It is dark and I am unsure of how much of the stories are glorified for our benefit. Does any country look after their poor? We hear about some of the arguments around the apartheid, the left over damage, the continued inequality, racism and mismanagement of a weakened country. The area is tucked away on the outskirts of the city.
They are isolated, desperate, helpless and poor. A breeding ground of hopelessness.
We drive to a large slum area called Umlazi, where the crime rates are high with up to 18 reported murders a month. That’s the ones that are reported the real figures are predicted to be double. It is a dangerous area. It’s huge and stretches are far as the eyes can see. By night the lights fill the valley and disappear into the distant and pitch black night.
A forgotten generation.
We drive to the marina, where the passion and seriousness of the current political situation is apparent. It was uncomfortable as the continued levels of racism are explained. I felt frustrated that I didn’t know more and my lack of knowledge wasn’t high enough to challenge or solve the lasting problems in this forgotten country full of inspiring and incredible people. There is tension in the discussion as people question their own morals and how things could still be so badly managed.
We move onto one of the stadiums built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, promising new money, at a cost of RND2.4billion. It has never been full to capacity since. A huge scar on the city. Sold another promise that was never going to work.
“The World Cup brought football fans and not tourists. They came to watch football and then left these monstrosities.”
Durban is industrial and disjointed. We stand outside of this huge stadium and the magnitude of the problems here are astounding, overwhelming and under the overbearing stadium, we feel lost and saddened.
We drive through ‘Nigeria’. Men are standing on street corners, police crawl the streets slowly and our guide points out the hair saloons explaining that they are cover-ups for drug dealers. There is a strange energy about the place, a dark energy consisting of unwelcoming bars and groups of people hanging on street corners. And all this directly behind the expensive hotels lining the beach and waterfront. We are told that the beach isn’t safe at night and I question my safety in the world, having never given a second thought about this in any country I had previously been to.
We continue to drive while homeless people and prostitutes on the street are noted. It feels uncomfortable. And I am tired. We drive to three places that are declared the ‘only safe places’. A casino, water park and Florida Road. We drive past wide American looking streets. All empty. I think how unstable and broken Durban is. I want to get back to bed, and I feel frustrated that I didn’t have all the answers to fix and solve all of the problems.
A unique opportunity to see parts of Durban that most would not. A chance to delve into the poverty and the aftermath of a well reported uprising. A World Cup success and the nightmare it left behind. A famous face, campaigning for a new South Africa and the corruption that this has turned into.
I was angry when I climbed into bed. I wanted to know how to help all these people and felt reassured that by supporting Bobbi Bear I was doing a small bit, that had a huge impact on the future generations of a beautiful country, in desperate need of support and love from honest and good people.
The Durban Night tour is an organised extra to the Operation Bobbi Bear Volunteer programme. This can be arranged during your stay and you can read more information about this here