Monday, 14 July 2008

South Africa diary: Rock DJ

Day four, Monday 14 July

Me with the Zondi family at their home in Durban
I get up at 6am, in time to see an amazing sunrise over Durban bay. Far below, I can see a crowd of people out on the pier, waiting for the sun to make its appearance above the rapidly lightening horizon. Downstairs, we meet the local Isibindi project manager and I get a chance to go through some questions from our media team. Today, we’re visiting the Zondi family, who were the focus of a 2006 appeal film starring Robbie Williams. One of our key objectives is to report back on their progress since then.

After getting briefly lost on our way out of Durban, we arrive at the township where the Zondi family lives. We’re met by Umlum Zondi (not his real name), a smiley and chatty 16 year old. He leads us to his home – three small, yellow and green buildings perched precariously on a hillside by the coast. There’s also a banana tree, a single tap for washing, an outside latrine and two graves below the house where the children’s parents are buried. Although they’re still poor, the people round here are clearly a step up from those in Ndondo Square. Their brick homes are well constructed and they all have running water and electricity.

When Robbie first visited the Zondis in 2006, Kiki, who was 17 at the time, was looking after his younger brother Umlum, then 14 and sisters Banu, 9, and Katie, 8. The children’s father died in 2002 and the boys cared for their mother until she died in 2005, after which they had no one to look after them. Fortunately, the family came to the attention of Isibindi, who provided a child and youth care worker to help out around the house, teach the children life skills, help with homework and provide emotional support.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

South Africa diary: Missing generation

Day three, Sunday 13 July

Unathi Nyathi with two of her many grandchildren
We’re staying at a guest house in Eliott, in the Transkei region of South Africa. It’s another early start, but after getting up at 4am yesterday, 7 O’Clock feels like a nice lie-in. It’s still well below freezing outside so in order to stay warm, I’m now wearing all my clothes in layers each day. We have a hearty breakfast at the guest house, then pile in to the vans and head back to Ndondo Square to film the second family – the Nyathis.

We arrive at the Nyathi home and get a tangible sense of South Africa’s ‘missing generation’. There are countless children running around the yard making a racket, while an old woman sits quietly outside the house, gazing into the distance. Nasi Nyathi (not her real name) is 15 and, along with her brothers and sisters, is an orphan. Her mother died four months ago, leaving five grieving children in the care of their grandmother Unathi, who was already looking after their twelve cousins. The only source of income for the entire family was Unathi’s pension.

After her mother died, Nasi initially took care of her siblings and did all their washing, cooking and cleaning. Things in the house became disorganised. Unathi didn’t want Nasi to do the housework but she’s a 65 year old woman looking after 17 children and things got too much for her.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

South Africa diary: Safe from harm

Day one, Friday 11 July

Me (right, with scarf) and the Soccer Aid film crew
We arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa at 6:30am, bleary eyed after an overnight flight from London. We’re here to record appeal and feedback films for Soccer Aid 2008, a televised charity football match.

At Jo’burg, we meet the rest of the film crew, who are all very experienced. Steve Cole, the director, has just produced a documentary on filmmaker Werner Herzog for BBC1. His past highlights include an Omnibus special on Aardman’s animated classic Chicken Run. Richard Kruger, our camera man, has worked on similar appeal films for Comic Relief and American Idol Gives Back. Hilton Auffray, our sound man, has just finished a feature film and is about to start a global health documentary for BBC World. He has also interviewed Nelson Mandela and is hoping to go to his 90th birthday party, which is coming up soon. My job is to gather materials for the website, including photographs, interviews, case studies and this journal.

While things are looking good on the crew front, the logistical side is another matter entirely. We’d expected to spend the morning at Johannesburg airport before flying on to Umtata in the afternoon but our connecting flight is cancelled. We’ll have to spend the night in Jo’burg and catch a 6am morning flight. It’s really frustrating: we’re only in South Africa for four days and we’re spending an entire day at the airport.