What might look like a hole in a wall to you has been home for Mayenzeke Shiyani, 45, for the past two months – ever since he arrived in Johannesburg from King William’s Town in Eastern Cape.
He spends most of his time tucked in under his bright yellow blanket in the crack of a wall on Commissioner Street opposite the Johannesburg Central Police Station. He said he only leaves his cranny in order to go and wash himself, to buy food or to listen to a favourite radio station.
“I wake up at 2pm and walk to the filling station with my two-litre bottle to fetch water to bath by the corner. Then I buy food and, around 3pm, I listen to Radio Sonder Grense until it’s time to get back to my spot at 6pm,” he said.
Also tucked away are his few possessions, including a D’Ziner digital watch, fake gold bands on his left hand, and a backpack. His other prized possessions are a battery-powered radio, and his ID book, which is filled with pictures of soldiers and a poster of the war movie Jarhead. Shiyani’s hole is neat, with his radio tucked away in one corner and his BB tobacco in the other.
Shiyani is unperturbed by being ignored by passers-by, who avoid eye contact as they walk past.
He could notexplain what brought him to Johannesburg, but said he was a high-ranking clan member and a “leader of soldiers”.
Johannesburg Central Police spokesman Captain Xoli Mbele was unaware Shiyani was living in the wall nearby.
“There are many homeless people sleeping around the station. It is close to the station, but the hole is behind trees so no one has seen him,” Mbele said.
Leila Patel, director of the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg , said there were no updated statistics on homelessness in Johannesburg and there was limited funding to help such people.
Patel said despite the lack of funding for helping the homeless, police stations and officers should be able to assist and direct them to care facilities.