William and Mary Law School

Masiphumelele

On Saturday, June 15, I went to Masiphumelele, a township located near Noordhoek.  In an effort to educate the residents about applying for refugee status, PASSOP sent five volunteers and me to Masi, as the locals call it, to meet with residents.  The drive to Masi was gorgeous as we took the Ou Kaapse Weg  that winds and cuts through Silver Mine Nature Reserve.

When we arrived in Masi, we drove past a mixture of free standing houses, containers turned into shops, and corrugated steel transformed into shacks.  Stray dogs roamed the streets and the locals turned to watch as we pulled up to the local primary school where the meeting was held.  The meeting was to begin at 10 am but due to communication problems, we did not arrive until 10:30.  However, the organizer of the meeting had not informed the community that we were coming and so no one was at the school when we arrived.  After about an hour and half, groups of three or four people began filing in.  The majority of the attendees and Anthony, the paralegal from PASSOP, are from Zimbabwe and so Anthony conducted the meeting in Shona, a native language of Zimbabwe.  After introducing us, he went into detail about applying for refugee status and spoke for about an hour.

After the meeting ended, I took down the names of newcomers to South Africa, so that we could write them introductory letters explaining to the police and other authorities that they are applying for documentation.  As we drove out of the township, the little shops were beginning to light barbeques made out of oil drum halves.  Needless to say, the day was a whirlwind introduction into a South African township giving me only a brief glimpse into life there.