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“I have come that you may have life: life in all its fullness.” John 10:10

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Bongani Magagasi Madida


The voice of the homeless.

"Durban: the most liveable and caring city in the whole of Africa!”. With its beautiful sunny weather all year around, and the streets filled with amazing colours that stimulate your eye and your imagination on every turn. However, is Durban really the most liveable and caring city?

I am from Johannesburg, Soweto, Dube Village. I got to Durban late 2016. One the reasons that brought me here was my name Magagasi which means ‘waves’ in English. But what’s the reason why I came to end up in the streets of Durban?

It all started in Johannesburg when my mother passed away and then my father was remarried. That is when our father started neglecting my siblings and me. I was the only boy and the oldest. At that point we started being in and out of the streets but some other family members would help us sometimes. That is when I decide to send my sisters to their mothers so they can take care of them. Then, for me, I decided to hustle in the street. At age 18 that is when I started being properly homeless in the streets of Johannesburg. That goes to show that no one wakes up and decide to be homeless.  Most of the time it is because of the trauma that one goes through.

The first time I got to Durban I was attacked by the Municipality.

They took us from where we were sleeping, put us on the back of a van. When that happened it took me back to the Apartheid days in Soweto where I was fully involved in the Struggle in school and later in the ANC youth league. After we were taken, we were dropped off beyond Pietermaritzburg just because they wanted to clean the streets and they just chose the easy way out. We were a huge group. We decided that we would find our way back to Durban and we walked for couple of days.

After that disturbing encounter with the Municipality, that’s when I decided in 2017 February to write a letter to the then mayor of Durban, Zandile Gumede, and to Mr Nzuza who is the City Manager, informing them about the injustice that was taking place on the streets of Durban. And as expected there was no reply, even today. That is where I decided to start a forum for homeless people with the help of the director of the Denis Hurley Centre Raymond Perrier. Then I was elected to be part of the Task Team formed by the deputy mayor of Durban to tackle homelessness – I now go to meetings inside City Hall!

So now I’m a homeless person taking part as a citizen of South Africa and citizen of eThekwini. I am hoping that one day we will have a political party as homeless people and join forces with the people staying in umjondolo (‘shacks’) to have a representative especially in Parliament. Already I attend regular monthly meetings with the Deputy Mayor.

Before the election, I have been able to greet, meet and educate major political leaders from four parties about the dangers we face from the Municipality in the streets of Durban. Last year I had an opportunity to speak and represent the homeless people of Durban in front of over 2000 people at the Shape Durban conference. And I took groups of fellow homeless people to attend meetings and share their stories at the ICC and City Hall.

You cannot be a charity case for the rest of your life, at some point you have to take responsibility of your life. I am a believer as long as my God is still with me, hope is always there.