Joe Slovo Park’s a home to many

Mamkhulu Mosela Tlali lives in Joe Slovo with her daughter and granddaughters. Here she is dressed in the regalia that signifies her calling as a sangoma.

It is a detour in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, that leads me to the house of Mam’khulu Mosela Tlali.

A neighbour, reluctant to be interviewed, escorts me to Ms Tlali’s house on a side street, off the bustling Freedom Way, on a Saturday afternoon, saying, “Speak to Mam’khulu, she will be able to tell you.”

As it turns out, Ms Tlali’s memory of a time before Joe Slovo Park was developed is hazy, which she ascribes to “being a long time ago”.

But I’m welcomed into the house, where the television is playing African traditional gospel on the channel, Dumisa.

Ms Tlali talks to me through granddaughter, Aviwe Silolo, 12, who acts as interpreter.

Ms Tlali is from Matatiele, in the Eastern Cape. The little town is close to KwaZulu-Natal and southern Lesotho, which explains her Basotho heritage.

Joe Slovo Park may be home, but it’s clear Matatiele is where her heart lies, as she explains her early years as a married woman coming to visit her husband in Cape Town but never settling here for too long in those days.

Her husband, Nelson Dyan, workedattheMilnertonGolf Course and lived in a “hokkie” in Kuku Town. Here he shared the home with three other people, she remembers.

Through Aviwe, she tells me she would stay three months, then return to the Eastern Cape. In Kuku Town, she had no problems, but acknowledges that life then wasn’t equal.

The family also had an informal home in the Strand, where her husband died during a shack fire. The exact year is no longer clear.

Before this tragedy, and with Ms Tlali living between Milnerton, Matatiele and Strand, houses were awarded to Joe Slovo’s first residents.

“When the key was handed over, my daughter was here. Her father gave her the key, as I was in Strand,” she explains.

Joe Slovo Park was established because of growing numbers of people squatting on the Marconi Beam site when stable hands were locked out of their living quarters at the Turf Club during a strike.

The men moved across Koeberg Road, and put up shacks and brought their families to live with them.

This had caused upset in adjacent Milnerton, but eventually the post office, which owned the land, accepted that permanent housing would have to be built on the site.

The government then provided 1 000 RDP houses for the poorest of the community.

As I wrap up our conversation, I ask Ms Tlali about the tiny red and white beads around her neck. That opens up a whole new dimension to her life, as Ms Tlali says she is a sangoma having received the calling or “twasa” as a child.

Shepoints to Aviwe to show what age she was when it happened. Her parents took her to other sangomas to try to figure out what was happening to their daughter.

Ms Tlali remembers she did her three-month training as a sangoma in 1982 in Matatiele learning “how to make herbs”.

While she does not practise her calling much in Joe Slovo, Aviwe mentions there “must be cows, goats, chickens”.

“Here I can’t go places,” she says, and from her interaction with Aviwe and her almost pained look, I understand that she picks up on too many problems when there.

As I prepare to leave, Ms Tlali goes to fetch her sangoma regalia, which transforms her from a doting grandmother into a woman who speaks with the ancestors.