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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Diepsloot: A Violent and Abusive Society Where Police Cannot Make a Difference

DiepslootMia Malan, Mail & Guardian health editor and head of Bhekisisa, has written an extensive article titled “Diepsloot: Where men think it’s their right to rape”.

Diepsloot is a large township north of Johannesburg, situated close to some very affluent areas. It consists of about 13 extensions, but there are no accurate population figures.

“The only official figures we have is from the 2011 census, that found that there are about 138 000 people living there,” Malan says, adding that many believe the number to be closer to 600 000.

“Diepsloot has extremely high levels of crime, of rape, of sexual violence and of alcohol abuse,” Malan says. “There are virtually no recreational activities in Diepsloot.”

Anton Harber’s 2011 publication Diepsloot was critically acclaimed for its examination of the area and examination of how change happens on the ground.

Read Malan’s harrowing piece:

The sun has just risen over the shacks of Extension 1 in Diepsloot, Johannesburg north. It is a calm Tuesday, just after 6am, in October 2013. Those with jobs are on their way to work; most people are hanging around doing nothing, whispering about death.

A crowd of people are banging on the door of Sisanda and Thokozani Mali’s one-room tin shack. “You need to come to the toilets! Quickly!” a voice shouts on the other side of the door.

The young mothers race to the public toilets, about 500m away, still in their pyjamas.

“It’s the one on the left; the one that’s broken!” someone yells. “They were found in there.”

The Mali sisters push through a heaving crowd of bodies to get to the toilet. Their hearts are hammering. They can hardly breathe.

At the toilet’s tin door, someone announces: “People have found the bodies of two toddlers. They may be yours.”

Malan spent five days in Diepsloot researching her piece, and says a lot of what she discovered shocked and surprised her. Watch a video of Malan discussing the story:

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