Seasonal Caravan Storage
By Jason Mordecai
Called by many names; townships, informal settlements, or squatter camps, they are an integral part of South African life, both in rural and urban areas. A collection of ramshackled structures made of corrugated iron, cardboard, wood, fencing, whatever can be found to create a home. The roads between the shacks are better described as worn pathways, some too small for a vehicle to pass, others wider with space for vehicles and informal trade to mingle with playing children. R.D.P. (Reconstruction and Development) housing projects are interspersed with the shack-lands, where the government has built small brick houses, which will ideally and ultimately house all of South Africa?ôs homeless. Amongst the shacks; schools, clinics, churches or missions, spaza shops, shabeens and taverns are found. The services that are usually conspicuously missing are police stations, post offices, and health outlets (apart from clinics, which dispense medicine and traditional healers).
The interior of most shacks are dark and stuffy, leaky in summer and draughty in winter when the paraffin stoves used for cooking and warmth far too often lead to fires, unable to be contained before spreading fast and far and with tragic consequences. These conditions are totally unsuitable for people living with compromised respiratory diseases such as those that are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS.
Informal trade is done from spaza shops, which are general dealer stores set up inside shacks, caravans, under gazebos or trees, or in containers. In the same way, hairdressing services, telephonic services and clothing are sold. Shabeens and taverns are bottle stores and restaurants.
Business is usually quiet during the daytime on weekdays, as most people who are employed and most children who are in school are not available as consumers. Children are often responsible for the shopping as their parent?ôs work, and it is becoming more and more common as AIDS spreads, that children are required to look after sick parents, run the household and look after siblings.