Winterveld: A place for people with nowhere else to go

Nonhlanhla is 23 years old. She lives with her family in a place called Winterveld. Winterveld is 30 kilometres outside Pretoria. Winterveld is in Bophuthatswana.

Many people live in Winterveld. But nobody knows how many people live there. Some people say nearly a million people live in Winterveld.

Nonhlanhla does not like Winterveld. She says life is hard in Winterveld. The people in Winterveld do not have the things they need.

In Winterveld there are no proper streets. There are no proper toilets. The people in Winterveld do not have taps. There is no electricity. There are no hospitals in Winterveld.

Life in Winterveld is very expensive. People have to pay a lot for everything. The prices at the shops are very high. Bus fare into town is expensive. And rents are very high.

People in Winterveld also pay for water. In some parts of Winterveld people pay 4 cents for one litre of water.

Winterveld people can’t find jobs easily. The people at the pass office in Pretoria do not want Winterveld people. They always send Winterveld people away. They say: “No jobs for Winterveld people”.

Winterveld is a bad place because it is a squatter camp. A squatter camp is a place where people without homes come to live. They have to build their own houses. Often it is illegal for people to live there. So the police can pull down their houses at any time. Nonhlanhla has been looking for a job for a long time. But she cannot get a job. She says: “I can’t find a job because I come from Winterveld.”

The people in Winterveld are scared of the police. The police often arrest them. But Winterveld people say things were not always so bad with the police. Things started to get bad in 1976:

Bophuthatswana became independent in 1976. Then life got hard for the people in Winterveld. After independence the Bophuthatswana police tried to chase them away. They tried to chase them away because most people in Winterveld are not Tswana. But the people have nowhere else to go. So they must stay in Winterveld.

There were not always so many people in Winterveld. The place was not always so bad. A long time ago, only people who owned land lived in Winterveld. They farmed the land. They grew mealies and melons.

But there is very little water in Winterveld. It is hard to farm there. So the farmers decided to stop farming. They decided to rent the land to people who needed a place to stay. The people who own the land are now rich. They are rich because they charge high rents.

The people who live in Winterveld come from all over South Africa. Most of the people came to Winterveld because it is near Pretoria. People want to live near a big town so they can find work.

Most of the Winterveld people worked for white farmers. They lost their jobs when the farmers bought big machines. These machines can do the work of many men. These men and their families moved to towns. They moved to find work. Many came to Winterveld.

Other people came to Winterveld when the government pulled down their houses. This is what happened to Nonhlanhla and her family. They used to live in a place called Lady Selbourne. Lady Selbourne was near Pretoria. Lady Selbourne was a good place. People of all races lived there in peace. Then the government pulled down Lady Selbourne. Some of the people moved to Mabopane. But some people did not get houses in Mabopane. These people moved to Winterveld.

Nonhlanhla does not like Winterveld. But there is no other place for her to live. So Nonhlanhla says she will stay in Winterveld. She will struggle to make things better. She will struggle together with all the other people who live in Winterveld.

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