I am Hopolang Lekhetha, a 22-year-old CPUT student living with my parents and siblings in Delft, Leiden. We have been living here for 13 years now. Throughout my stay here I have come across many things that shaped the person I have become. This is not home, it never felt like home. We live in a one room house; with a kitchen, lounge, bedroom and toilet all in a small space of 36 m2. For a long time it has felt like the dreams and aspirations it has groomed were confined. We arrived here in 2006 when I was aged 12. Like in most townships around the Western Cape, the community of Delft was clouded with a fashion of evilness called Gangsterism or Gorans. This is a term even kids who live in the suburban areas are familiar with. Amidst a lot of experiences, living in Delft is one period I will never forget. Why? Because of the trauma and stress it has caused in my life directly and indirectly. I’m still a fragile boy; concerned with very little but curious about everything in the universe.
At school I was performing quite well thanks to a host of wonderful teachers I had at Voorbrug High School. But there were some things missing; motivation, role-models and encouragement back home. Delft is a place where you can find a lot of things like any other township, but not the things I was missing. It’s been a life of seeking. Seeking to find and be found in return and seeking to fit-in. Seeking to be spared yet another day of gangsters who used to be your friends but now run the places and the schools where we seek to fulfill our dreams. There was no home for our aspirations here. On one encounter when I witnessed evil it dawned on me that we are living in hell. We were heading home from school with a group of friends on a Friday afternoon and unexpectedly a rival gang approached. All I could remember were screams of school girls and I was on the ground because I turned and tried to run too late. One of the friends we were with was battling for his life with a group of armed boys who attacked him with Pangas, knifes and golf-sticks. I have seen these items before but not being used on a person. He fled the scene with a few scars and stabs. God or Muti? He praised the latter, but I knew and still know it wasn’t.
This township, Delft, has never been home. I have witnessed not only dreams, but friends die. Friends I grew up with turning into monsters; worthless, heartless animals who stand on the main road and mug people. They try to survive because they have been shut out by their dreams. I have scars because of this place. Amongst many things it has done to me, I have loved and been loved in the most unexpected ways. The only thing I feel tasked or obliged to do is to change the narrative and repaint the picture and fate of this place; my kasi, Delft. With the odds against me I am an aspiring teacher and am committed to changing lives. The friend I was talking about is Yamkela Mthokonya, he is an aspiring Civil Engineer. Delft, as toxic as it is there’s one thing I am confident it still has and that is hope! Hope for a possible and better tomorrow.