today we burnt the only mattress on which we would have slept tonight
today we littered our streets with rocks and burning tyres from vehicles which would
have taken us to our only destination
a place called hope
This poem was received well, critically and subjectively, when it was first published.
I wrote it with the small community of Sir Lowrys Pass (near Cape Town) in mind after they uncharacteristically took to their streets to voice their frustrations at being put at the back of the queue for basic services and its delivery.
To my mind they form part of the most marginalised of our greater Western Cape community.
Some readers recognised and understood what I was feeling and thinking about when they read these few short words.
The majority did not recognise that the ignorance I spoke of was not confined to this poor community that was foregrounded in my poem.
Sir Lowrys Pass village is one of many, small poor communities in the Western Cape that has been ignored by most Capetonians, from urban city workers, blue collared, white collared, or peripheral, to well-attired Party loyalists whose means of protest entails the throwing of human excrement in spite of its consequences.
From city and government employees to the elected officials who are paid by the working electorate to deliver available resources to all citizens, including refugees from other African countries.
The village’s inhabitants struggle daily with many of the same problems that most poor, unemployed South Africans are faced with each day; HIV/AIDS, a lack of education, alcoholism and drug-addiction, as well as gangsterism.
The main problems facing this impoverished community appears to be housing and sanitation which was promised by the mayor of Cape Town after able-bodied and frustrated members of this community took to their un-tarred roads and yards, burning and trashing everything within reach of them, including the very makeshift beds that they slept on. This happened over a year ago.
They live on the fringes of a very fertile and vast area of land which is world famous for its grapes and deciduous fruits, some of them are able to gain temporary, seasonal employment, picking grapes and apples, and for the rest of the year they and their families go hungry, stuck in the back of beyond.
Young mothers who fall pregnant against their own free will are unable to provide adequately for their little ones who cry at night, hungry and thirsty for just a little something as we on the Cape Flats have become used to saying.
Poor, uneducated youths at the moment face a bleak future challenged by their peers to abandon all hope and enslave themselves to those addictions and vices already mentioned.
The website of The Sir Lowry’s Pass Community Empowerment Project states that it was founded because there are many of us who want to help. I invite you all to pledge your support in any way that you can.