45-year-old Mayenzeke Shiyani is not just homeless, he is rather pathetically homeless, having decided to comfortably settle in a crack of Joburg city wall. Bizarre! if I must say.
Ever since Shiyani arrived in Johannesburg from King William’s Town in Eastern Cape, he has comfortably fitted himself in the crack of a wall on Commissioner Street opposite the Johannesburg Central Police Station.
The homeless man’s pathetic condition is worsened by people’s ignorance as they walk past the wall. But he said people’s attitude towards him doesn’t bother him and that all that matters to him is his comfort.
Shiyani spends most of his time tucked in under his bright yellow blanket and only leaves his ‘room’ whenever he wants to buy food, have his bath or listen to a favourite radio station.
Apart from his BB tobacco, the homeless man owns few other properties which he carefully placed around his neat hole. These properties include a backpack, a D’Ziner digital watch, fake gold bands for his hand.
He is a proud owner of a battery-powered radio and a copy of his Identity book – which is filled up with pictures of soldiers and a poster of the war movie Jarhead.
Throwing light on how he has been surviving inside the crack, he said:
“I wake up at 2pm and walk to the filling station with my two-litre bottle to fetch water to bath by the corner. Then I buy food and, around 3pm, I listen to Radio Sonder Grense until it’s time to get back to my spot at 6pm.”
When Shiyani was asked why he left Eastern Cape for Joburg, he said he could not explain what brought him to Johannesburg. He, however, described himself as an influential man in his clan and a “leader of soldiers”.
Homelessness in South Africa dates back to the apartheid period. Studies have identified increasing unemployment, lack of affordable housing, social disintegration, and social and economic policies as the leading causes of homelessness in the country.
With a national unemployment the rate of 25%, even more in some areas of South Africa, many people are homeless.
As of 2015, the city of Cape Town had over homeless people and a large percentage of them were male. The figure was confirmed by the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development, Suzette Little, at the time.
In 2016, the streets of Durban were flooded by over 4,000 homeless people, according to reports. Most homeless people in Durban are said to be South Africans while 10% are foreigners.
‘I know government has been doing a lot for homeless people in the country but I encourage them to do more for these helpless people.’