Siphiwe, South Africa
On 16 June 2004, Siphiwe’s life changed forever. Working as a security guard he was shot three times and left paralysed from the waist down.
Unable to live on his own, Siphiwe moved in with his mother, who squats in a shack on the top floor of a building in central Johannesburg. It’s a disgusting place with no running water and where rats roam freely. Yet Siphiwe is trapped there. Just twice a month his brother or mother is able to brave a treacherous external fire escape to carry him on their back to the ground floor.
It’s an appalling situation but, like many in post-Apartheid South Africa, Siphiwe and his mother have no legal resources or knowledge of their housing rights to change it. Or that was the case before The Legal Resources Centre was set up with Comic Relief money to provide free help to poor and disadvantaged South Africans.
Now a well-respected legal advice service, the centre tackles the major problems facing South Africa today, such as poverty, discrimination, HIV/AIDS and homelessness. In fact, it has already made a big impact on changing housing law in the country and has assisted over 80,000 clients.
Currently, it’s representing the residents of the Main Street building where Siphiwe and his mother live. The centre aims to protect residents from eviction on to the street and then ultimately to secure them suitable alternative accommodation for the long term.
“Represented by The Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg, wheelchair-bound Siphiwe now has a chance of being moved to suitable accommodation.”