Children only see what there is to see but are never perceptive enough to see beneath the layers. A few years ago,I was a child. One that saw the startling differences between the well-off and barely-getting-by. I never saw beyond that and only understood the realities later.
I yearned to live in the huge houses we would pass on our way to school which was far from where I lived-the kasi. To think back now though, my surroundings instilled a die hard, hustler attitude within me..qualities I would have never have gotten had I not grown up in the ‘kasi’. The ‘kasi’ as it is commonly referred to as is where I was raised, groomed and carved into the woman I am today. The ‘kasi’ has always been my sanctuary, home and comfort place and all I have ever known until I began primary school.
The school was located on the other side of Tsumeb in the suburbs shall I put it, the place we called ‘town’. As the bus rode to school we’d suddenly be driving from the disheveled parts to the parts of town where lawns existed, houses where larger than our own and everything seemed cleaner..civilized even. As a child, I failed to understand why we had different living conditions and thought it to be fascinating albeit disappointing. As I grew older, my knowledge broadened.
The wage gap issues became prominent and I realised what caused it. Lack of skills and education equated to lack of well-paying jobs which in turn equated to low-income housing and so forth. Saddest of all was that my people were working hard to overcome the situations they found themselves in due to colonialism. This has always motivated me to break the cycle. The struggle continues. People were fearful of venturing into the kasi. It was both amusing and hurtful to witness. I would be taking a friend home and the moment we stepped over the threshold between town and kasi, phones would be clutched tightly, eyes darting left to right and left again, conversation will dim down and for them at least, all senses would be hyperactive.
What caused all this you wonder? The fact that the big bad wolves resided in the kasi of course! This holds some truth..to some extent. I haven’t quite grasped this because, the people that were feared, the thieves, stoners and gang members were acquaintances of mine people I knew personally if I do say so myself. Ironically, all these horrible ideologies of the kasi were seemingly forgotten as the weekend rolled by and people needed to unwind.
Streets would be filled with all kinds of people, music blasting from all corners so much so that study sessions of distraught learners would completely be disrupted. On the darker side of things. I was often demotivated upon seeing the hopelessness around me, but silver linings came out to play and poverty was what motivated us to work harder,quicker and better. Women and men wake up in the early hours of the morning,prepare their sales and set out to sell come rain or shine to children and adults rushing to towards work.
Having witnessed the poverty circle time and time again, I vowed never to be a part of it! One of the best moments ever, is how we all rejoice together when a child of the community returns and has been successful in endeavours they have pursued. We all sleep a little snug that night,praying that the same luck would reach our households too. Over the years I have witnessed great changes in the ‘kasi’, ones that were previously deemed impossible. Brick by brick, people were renovating their homes.
Gone were the one bedroom houses were most designs were so warped, surrounded by fences that have seen better days. Gone were the chipped walls that looked ready to fall. The result was beautiful houses with immaculate paint jobs and neck-breaking walls. The fact that they rivalled the ones seen in town filled me with pride. But who was competing? Unfortunately, not all could reap the rewards of black tax though. A particular thing I loved and loathed was how involved everyone was in each other’s lives. If you were seen in a compromising position by an ‘auntie’ you’d be crippled with fear because she was bound to come by and tell meme about it. It was very unsettling. ‘Kasi’ teens were often termed ratchet,loud and useless.
Some never made it passed grade 10 and loitering became the way of life. Teenage pregnancies and drug abuse was very common and this caused parents to develop a leash around their children. We had to prove a point to ourselves and the rest of society that we were more than our circumstances offered us,this caused the pressure to increase,expectations were higher than ever and failure is unspeakable. The kasi is my sanctuary but at the same time,I often dared to venture outside after dark. After all,it was to better to not know the real dangers we faced.
by Hilde Kamati