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Nosipho Princess Magwaza


Even though they took my ID they will never take my Identity!

You are probably looking at this image above right now and thinking to yourself: "but she looks happy, I thought this exhibition was supposed to be about helpless homeless people”. Well I am homeless but not hopeless, because every day when I wake up I find purpose through sharing my story with anyone who is willing to lend an ear. And I’ve been able to tell my story in different ways: radio (SAFM), newspapers (The Mercury, Mail and Guardian) and public speaking (at the Denis Hurley Centre).

My story is of homelessness, abuse, family and strength.

Now that I have your attention, here is my story: I’m 19 years old, originally from Mozambique. I moved to Durban to stay with my family in Phoenix in 2010. But since my mother and father passed away, we started having big problems with my family. I decided to move to town so that I can be able to support myself and not worry about unnecessary argument I would have with family. Because of that I couldn’t even finish school. I ended on grade 11. I’ve been staying in the street of Durban for going on 6 months now but it feels like years. I used to get jobs as a hairdresser or as a waiter in various restaurants around Town and Point. But then I lost my ID document.

We were ambushed at night where we asleep by the harbour by the amaphoyisa (‘police’). They came at night around 11. That day I was not feeling well so I went to bed early but couldn’t sleep. When I was about to sleep I just heard people screaming, sneezing, crying and coughing. I thought I was dreaming. Next minute I heard footsteps coming towards us where my friend Thandeka and I were sleeping. Before I could make sense of what happening I just saw a big figure on top of us. Then we got pepper sprayed! That’s when we decided to run away but Thandeka got more pepper sprayed than me so I had to also help her out of harm’s way. I didn’t even get a chance to take anything.When we were far enough from the danger we sat down and hopelessly watched as the SAPS gathered all of our belongings and stacked them on top of each other, poured petrol on them and set them on fire.

All I could think about at that moment in time was: "I won’t be able to vote this week. Why would the people who swore to serve and protect us do the exact opposite, especially the day before National Elections?”. But I was harshly reminded that this was not the first time that this happened and it won’t be the last. If it was not the SAPS, it would be the Municipality; if not the Municipality, it would be the Metro Police; if not the Metro Police, it would be the private security hired by the Municipality to beat the shit out of us. I felt stupid for even asking myself that question because this is the same SAPS that asked me to drop the charges of attempted rape I filed against a family friend just because it was a lot of work. If they didn’t care then, why would they care now when I’m homeless? I was happy, though, that at least none of my friends were kidnapped this time.

They drop us a hundred miles away from Durban. But we always find our way back, even if it takes us for ever.

This story won’t end here. Every day with the Denis Hurley Centre I’m working on the second chapter it will be less sour than this.