Over the past three or so years I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time in Diepsloot, mainly as an active & present member of the church I attend there.
I have had a privileged upbringing. The part of my childhood that wasn’t spent in leafy suburbs saw me living in suburban-looking homes in townships & rural areas, so part of me naturally expected to be ‘helping the underprivileged’, ‘making an impact’, and ‘changing lives’ (I had been indoctrinated into believing that ‘poor’ places like Diepsloot needed people like myself to come and save them). Little did I think that Diepsloot would be doing all those things for me.
Spend enough time with the right people in the place (of whom there are many) and you will soon see that Diepsloot far from poor. Instead of poverty, you will find a community wealthy in hope, faith, and love. You will find people who are just as intelligent, genuine, and welcoming than anywhere else (if not more).
That said, I am not blind to the injustices that have become a normal part of every-day life there. Many of them definitely come from within the community. But many come from outside of it as well. The biggest of these are ignorance and judgementalism. I used to be able to treat with indifference the discussions in which people from townships would be labelled lazy and backwards; savage and barbaric; even as people who breed themselves into poverty. “Breed”. That is a word I have seen used just this year; a sign of the inhumane perceptions that some people hold to this day, as if their fellow citizens of this nation and of this human race were animals.
Now, any insult to them is an insult to me, and any blessing to them is oil on my head as well. The same goes for fellow citizens. That is community. That is unity. That is ubuntu.
To those of you e ba bitsang Diepsloot kasi ya lona, my message to you is that ke wena o tswanetsi go thoma ka mofetolo o batlang go o bona. The difference you make might seem small, but many tiny drops make up an ocean. Here’s one idea: maybe start with a campaign to change its name from “diep sloot” (literally meaning ‘deep ditch/gutter’) to something like Jukskei North* or Nyakatho**, for example. And don’t worry about what other people will think or say – they might be doing whatever they do to impress others, while they actually want the same things as you. Just try. You’ll be amazed.
And to those of you who think little of the place: Think again.
Not that I didn’t have enough to begin with, but in Diepsloot, I have certainly found a lot more people to call friends family and one more place to call home.
*As suggested by ‘Pastor G’ from my church, who came up with this great idea
** Zulu for “North”, since it’s even further north than the leafy suburbs