I have to come to know most of the people living on the streets of Maitland, and getting to know them has been a privilege.
I first started connecting with them when I had a few hundred sandwiches left over from my Homeless Action Week event last year, which I decided to “bless” them with.
That interaction greatly enhanced my experience of Maitland.
One afternoon, a week or two after the sandwich drive, I was asked for assistance by one of the guys. I truly couldn’t assist at the time, and this led to him making a veiled threat, proclaiming to be a “number” (prison gang member). I explained to him that his attitude was not desirable and would get him nowhere with me. A day later, he came to me and apologised.
He has since become one of the guys I regularly make sandwiches and a hot coffee for when I see they have had a tough day.
Another guy has always been friendly, greeting me and always offering to help carry my shopping or offering assistance whenever he sees me, and has never asked me for anything in return. He says he hates living on the streets, but says it’s unbearable at home. He is currently out on parole and says he never wants to land up in Pollsmoor again, but living on the streets makes that wish a pipe dream.
I returned from the electricity price hike protest on Saturday afternoon to find my street, as Afrikaans-speaking people would now aptly put it, “in rep en roer” (in an uproar).
I had apparently just missed the drama.
An unknown male had jumped into a yard, having gained access through an adjacent complex, and was already on to house number two, when a worker in the complex alerted his supervisor to the fact that a man had used their washing lines as a launch pad into the adjacent homes and seemed to be stealing items.
Upset that his boss didn’t seem very interested, he spoke to the two guys I mentioned above, as they try to earn a few rand from taxi drivers daily by calling people to taxis that have stopped to load in front of this complex.
The stop is right in front of it. These two guys then proceeded to gain access to the two properties in question in the manner that the thief had done, and they caught him red-handed.
They proceeded to beat the guy up and were able to recover everything he had already gathered to take with him.
They apparently walked out, each holding the thief by his pants on either side, in a scene reminiscent of, as one bystander described it, “a skop, skiet en donder fliek” (a beating).
The only strange aspect of this scenario, he told me, was that the good guys were two guys who had lived on the streets for 31 years.
I spoiled them today and they had no idea why.
Not one of them bragged about their little adventure. I was still curious and wanting to know more about their heroic act, but was shocked to hear that the reason they hadn’t been there when I arrived was that they had decided to “spat” (leave) because the owner of the house where the guy was apprehended by these two heroes had the audacity to rebuke them for having climbed over on to her property without permission, and told them they should have left it for the police.
The police had just arrived when I came past the previous day, and by then the thief had already been handed over to the neighbourhood watch.
Now it made sense to me why I hadn’t seen them at the scene the previous afternoon and only heard about how brave they had been.
“That is why there is a police force. I don’t want vagrants jumping into my yard uninvited,” is the response I got from the owner of the house in whose house the thief had been apprehended by these two guys.
These guys had not shown even a minute’s hesitation, or consideration for their own safety, when they stopped a robbery in progress that she had been oblivious to while it had been occurring.
It’s situations like these that leave me gobsmacked! Some people have really lost all of their humanity.
On Tuesday, I will be buying two copies of the Cape Argus and giving one each to the two heroes.
Well done, guys. You did good and can hold your head up high. You are better people and neighbours than she could ever be.
* Carlos Mesquita.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected].
All letters to be considered for publication, must contain full names, addresses and contact details (not for publication)