Inside Diepsloot, Letter from Johannesburg, South Africa

There is an energy that cuts through the air! It’s mission bound. It’s moving somewhere; but to where? Who knows? But it’s definitely moving forward. This energy emulates from the people of Diepsloot, Johannesburg, particularly the children. Despite the lack of any modern or even basic amenities, their energy is consistent and palpable. It is as if they don’t accept the very real; very painful; very difficult circumstance they live in. Or maybe they just no longer see it? Or do they refuse to see it? In either case, despite the danger, the discomfort, the frustration and the broken promises, there is much we can learn from the people of this meager land… especially from the children!

Diepsloot, – (Johannesburg, South Africa) is a settlement area that was established in 1995 by the Rand provincial administration. It was initially created as a temporary shelter for people who had been displaced from informal settlements in Honeydew, Sevenfontein and Alexandra. Yet twenty years later, what started out with 200 families evicted from Sevenfontein, has now evolved into a densely populated Township of nearly 200K people!   Many of the people live in small shacks built from scrap metal, wood, plastic and oftentimes from cardboard. Today, some families lack access to basic services such as running water, sewage and garbage removal. Additionally multiple areas within Diepsloot do not have tar roads, drainage or even street lights. To add pain to their frustration, residents of Diepsloot must contend daily with rampant crime, rape, kidnappings of young children and high unemployment rates.   For many South Africans as well as international advocacy groups, the name Diepsloot is synonymous with poverty, hopelessness and violent crime. Back in 2013, Diepsloot garnered media attention for the kidnapping and killing of several young children over the span of a few weeks. The perpetual crime, drug abuse, rape and violent attacks still continue today. Yet, despite the struggles of everyday life there is still an energy within its borders. There is a growing population of people of good will that live within Diepsloot who feverishly march forward towards a better life for themselves and their children.

Diepsloot Johannesburg South Africa 2
The children of Diepsloot are miraculous little souls. Even though they are the primary focus of sexual predators who seek to rob them of their innocence, these precious children still smile broadly with full bright beautiful teeth that shine through the darkness. Their energy communicates repudiation to the evil that lurks around them. These beautiful kids refuse to despair because of situations out of their control. Instead, many are going to school, attending churches and play daily in front of broken-down shacks as if they didn’t have a care in the world.

It’s a great tribute to the belief that happiness is found within oneself AND not determined by personal possessions.

Diepsloot Johannesburg South Africa
Life in Diepsloot is never dull. Despite its shortcomings, on most days (and even at night), the sounds of music still fill the air.   Each day, there are bold smells bellowing from kitchens, grills and local markets, as residents seek to maintain normalcy in an otherwise dodgy place. It’s a common belief in rich countries that people in Africa are poor but happy. Not so much! However, many residents of Diepsloot refuse to be denied the ability to laugh, dance, play and sing, even while they have so little. These audacious souls move onwards, towards a future that is not clear but yet on some days, appears very promising. More importantly, it’s the promise in the eyes of the Deipsloot children that give it hope and speak of a future that will eventually be as big and as bright as their huge, fresh, innocent smiles.

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G. Anthony Knowles

My name is G. Thomas Knowles. I was born in Florida yet spent ten years living in Kingston, Jamaica where I was partially raised by my grandparents. Over the last 25 years, I have traveled the world implementing logistics strategies and innovative solutions to complex distribution operations challenges.   Full Bio:

G. Anthony Knowles has 43 posts and counting. See all posts by G. Anthony Knowles


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