EThembeni is a shack settlement in eRhini (Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa (See Location). Although tucked away in the rural Eastern Cape, Grahamstown is not an obscure South African town. Known for its hosting of the National Arts Festival, and as the home of Rhodes University, the town is romanticized by many South Africans. Despite it’s charming colonial architecture and educational prowess, Grahamstown is an ugly reflection of South Africa’s racial and class inequalities. The quality of life in the central town and areas surrounding the university is in stark contrast to the poverty of parts of the township and the shack settlements. EThembeni is but one example of the “underside” of Grahamstown. People do not have electricity, their homes are prone to damage by storms and wind, they make use of backyard pit toilets that they’ve dug themselves, and the entire community shares six outdoor taps. Their views and concerns are treated off-handedly and with little respect by local politicians and the municipality. Their dignity is not recognised. They are a people ignored.
eThembeni is a place where every rainfall is viewed with dread. Where every promise from a local politician is viewed with skepticism. This blog was inspired, and called for, by the people of eThembeni. This looks to share their truth.