When following a big story means being in for the high jump

Everson Luhanga

I started my journalism career in the streets of Alex and I have covered many news articles from crime to celebrities to feel good stories.

But getting a story about 50 individuals imprisoned in their own yards awakened my curiosity. I arranged to meet with them.

My contact person Keeditse Sechabelo waited for me with ladders next to the wall where the people jump in and out. When I got there, the question was how do I get to see the trapped people in a congested yard.

Keeditse pointed at the step ladders. “Brother, let’s jump and see what I am talking about inside.”

But before that we had to shout for help from anyone on the other side to put buckets on the spot where Keeditse would land on the other side.

It was tricky and tough.

I looked at the rusted wires and broken wood of the ladders. I am heavy. I register a good number of kilos and climbing up the shaky ladder was scary.

But I was more interested to see what other people go through daily. So, I took the risk.

Keeditse took the lead while I held her phone. I followed after passing my equipment in a bag over to her.

Inside the yard, it is packed. A lot of rooms. A lot of people.

We went to each household counting how many people lived in that yard: there were 50.

While I was speaking to some residents, I saw energetic young girls and boys being sent to buy bread across the road. And the only way out was through the same ladders I used.

I am not sure though how long the ladders will hold as they look almost finished.

Around 2 o’clock that afternoon, I saw children coming back from school queuing for the ladders. My heart sank.

Terrible story, right?

I approached a man named Danny Ndzondza who had closed the last gate residents were using. Danny told me that he is doing nothing wrong.

“I am closing an entry to my yard for safety reasons. This is my yard and I will do how I feel,” he said.

I discovered there is a word that exactly describes such a person – a NIMBY (not in my back yard). 

But what the hell are you supposed to do when all your neighbours are nimbies?