Babies and the indigent bitten by rats – A growing health crisis in Alexandra Township

Posted: June 12, 2010 by Danny Lurie in HillsideDigital

As a Video journalist I intend to represent my community, explore issues and bring about advocacy. I am currently finishing the Rats documentary made in my community Alexandra township in the north of Johannesburg South Africa. It is a Township, historically known for its political history and now known for its poverty situation in the center of world class Central Business Districts; such as Johannesburg, Sandton, Midrand and other eastern suburbs.

Not long ago when I started researching in my community issues waiting to be explored and exposed, I found that my community is desperate for immediate help with the rats. The rodents have become a serious problem all over Alexandra Township, they have increased massively in production, they have dwelled in peoples homes and so far they have caused damage to properties and there have been several reports of babies, old women and men bitten by these rats.

I profoundly identified as an agent of intervention to the issue, my first step was a visit to the local S.P.C.A an organization for animal protection and safety, well I found just a reference for support about the Rats population dynamic and other issues such as diseases from Rats, other wise the S.P.C.A assured their lack of interest to participate, how ever their contact came in handy. I met a scientist from the Institute of Communicable Diseases South Africa, it was relevant for the scientists to participate with regards to the Rats diseases and any threat of plague in Alexandra Township, after all my aim was to inform people about the possible outbreak since a lot of people have been bitten by rats and other historical facts about the plague outbreak in North West South Africa.

In the heart of the story stands out the story of Tent City in Alexandra Township in which eleven families live in a tent home next to a dump and have no toilets, they do not have water and sewage facilities; they use the outside field for toilet. The community became desperate of the situation as rats were becoming worse in their homes entering through small holes they find in the dark and in day time, rats were biting their children and an adult, still destroying their furniture, they face risk of diseases carried by the rats from the dump straight to their food storage. They were interviewed and for the first time they felt listened to as we filmed their community meeting where they expressed their need for help and strongly about the rats.

The documentary attracted community stakeholders such as the local environment organization which felt confident to be interviewed and show ways in which the community can eliminate population of rats and recycling processes involved in community partnership. The documentary would have been incomplete without municipal participation to answer about rodents control and rubbish around Alex which is identified as the problem. In time, the municipality began conducting the Rodant campaign which was captured for the documentary, and all this was objectively aimed at educating the community about the rats, and how they multiply and what can be done to solve the problem. In their many ways of killing the rats, some were poisoned and some pumped with Carbon Dioxide gas in their deep holes; as they run out dizzy and weak, they are hit hard to death, it was an upsetting process but became a community spectacle, some claiming it is a good way, some still preferring traps all over. The municipality came out confident for an interview and redefined their aim; to totally eliminate rats in Alexandra Township.

The documentary will feature community views about the rats in what we call “Vox Box” street interviews. The film will be shown in different community locations d to inform Alexandrians about the rat population, risks and ways of eliminating the health crisis.

As a director I have come across challenges such as denialism from relevant offices to participate, and interview schedules. One of the challenges that stood out was preparation of the team and team work which is vital to the success platform as film production, how ever was able to break through team issues and progress really well. The highlights were about the success of each interview, shots and the beginning of the footage editing, one of the greatest moments that will forever stand out as a shining point was when we hunted rats all over Alex and for the first time I saw how they come out at night in different sizes and shapes “could not eat for hours’ but became strong. I know that for the next documentary it will be simple for schedule sheet ‘what we call a call sheet and team player roles. As a director I feel proud to have produced such quality of work in my first leg of film making.

By Warren Radebe

Warren Radebe is 24 years-old and grew up in Alexandra where he finished school in  2003. Warren is actively involved in community service and started his own charitable organization which deals with giving aid to unemployed and destitute grandmothers. His mentor is Linda Twala who is renowned for his outreach work with both young and old Alexandrians since the 1970s. Warren’s passion is to change the world through telling the stories of disadvantaged people in the hope of raising awareness and attracting funding to change their lives. He wants to be a cameraman and director.

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