At dawn, a white jogger ran along a side road

beyond the budget hotel’s high, spiked railings.

So the neighbourhood was safe. But for whom?

Later, beneath the barbed wire topped wall

of the dentist’s opposite – a notice warned

of armed response – half a dozen or so black men gathered

in ones and twos. Some had crude boards announcing

their crafts:  brick layer, gardener. Sometimes a pick-up stopped.

The men moved forward. There was talk with the baas.

Sometimes one of them got in the back.

I could not imagine such


On the corner itself, entrepreneurs set up impromptu stalls:

fruit and vegetables stacked symmetrically;

a hairdresser; a couple of guys changing car

exhausts; a man in rags selling a toilet seat.

All would have walked, I learned, carrying their gear,

daily up the road from Soweto, miles over the brow.




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  1. #1 by John Chapman - March 27th, 2011 at 15:17

    And hundreds of thousands of our people march in London for fear of ‘The Cuts’. Not nice for sure but yet nowhere near Soweto’s dire existence.

  2. #2 by David Selzer - March 28th, 2011 at 10:08

    Poverty is always relative but the suffering is not.

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