Pelo Mkaza


87I was born in Alice, a big village in the, Eastern Cape.  It wasn’t a poor village.  We had communal taps, electricity, a community hall, buses, taxis, and shops.  I  liked living in Alice because it is a very nice place.  I lived with my family, and went to school there and still have many friends there.   So why did I leave?  I left because few people had jobs, and I couldn’t find a job either.  I came to Cape Town in 2005 to look for a job.  I came to Monwabisi Park because my sister was here, and  I stayed with her and her husband.  We lived in B section.  Now I am living with my partner.  Our four year old child is living with my mother in Alice.  It’s very hard to look for a job while looking after a child.  And crèches here are expensive  compared to crèches in Eastern Cape.   If I find a full time job, I would bring my child to Monwabisi Park and be able to pay for a crèche here.

I am a street committee member.  I was elected in 2010.  In Monwabisi Park we have six street committees for each of the four sections, that means we have twenty four street committee groups in all of Monwabisi Park.  Each street committee is made up of a Chairperson, Vice Chair person,  Secretary, Vice Secretary, Treasurer, and Organizer.   To become a street committee member, we call a meeting for our of B section.  We meet in B section community hall.  The chairperson of SANCO leads the meeting.  People are nominated by residents.  We must have at least two names for each position.  Then people vote with a show of hands.  This is done for each of the six street committees in section B.  It’s done the same way throughout Monwabisi Park.   We serve a three year 88term.  If a street committee member drops out,  however, the committee will ask a new person, someone who has participated at the street committee meetings, to join without putting it to a vote.  On Mondays and Tuesdays evenings there are community meetings here in Monwabisi Park.

I wanted to become a member of the street committee because there are a lot of problems here that are dealt with by the street committees.  While SANCO and SNAC, for example, discuss big  issues like housing and development, the street committee focuses our work on crime and helping our neighbors in various way.   If there is rape or murder in our section, then the street committee will go to the police.  If there is a smaller problem, such as a burglary or fighting, we ask the people involved to come to the meeting and try to settle the differences.

We also help our neighborhoods.  For example, if someone dies and there is no money or an insurance policy to help pay for the burial, we go to three or four undertakers in Site C and elsewhere in Khayelitsha to find out if any of them would be willing to give us a casket and a grave in the cemetery along Steve Biko road.  We have found that the undertakers will help us.  At a funeral, even for a poor person, there needs to be food and refreshments.  Then we go to every Somalian Spaza shop in Monwabisi Park because they have the biggest shops and together the shops give us food, such as rice, flour for bread, and all that we need for the funerals. And we must go door to door to collect money (about 5 rand) for transport in a Hearst from the undertaker to the graveyard.   If the person who dies has children, the Street Committee contacts the Department of Social Service who will provide shelter for the children. If the children have relatives, they will stay with their relatives.   In A section there is a house where children who have no parents live. It was built by the community because the girl’s parents had died.  Also if someone from the community does not have an ID they can ask the Street Committee to provide them with an ID.

What can street committees do to improve Monwabisi Park?

89I want there to be better communication between the Street Committee, community residents, SANCO, the CPF (community police forum) .  Better communication,  more meetings, pamphlets, computer access so we could have access to more information, would help.   I would also like workshops in leadership development for street committee members and other groups in Monwabisi Park so we could work more effectively together.