Level Ground and South Africa
Our history is part of what makes us who we are. Learn about the history of Level Ground and South Africa and its severe shortage of adequate housing – the highs and lows, from apartheid to freedom and freedom from the shackles of the past!
South Africa, Our Dear Land
When South Africa is mentioned internationally, there are mostly two ‘things’ that come to mind: Mandela and apartheid. Although this may neatly sum up South Africa’s recent history, our country has a long and proud history dating back many centuries. Through the ages kingdoms have followed migration and wars have followed occupation. The European explorers started arriving in South Africa long before Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival in 1652 and ever since our land has seen a battle for resources and a domination by one people group over others.
Apartheid was the culmination and legalisation of what was already de facto practice in the 20th century by whites and was finally extinguished by political pressure, mass action and financial pressure resulting in the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of imprisonment and South Africa’s first free and fair election in 1994 in which the ANC was voted into power and Mandela made president.
However, this triumphant time of renewal for our country has still left the majority of our people still battling the repercussions of apartheid which sees millions in inadequate housing and living in poverty.
Our townships in Cape Town are full of people that have migrated from the former ‘homelands’ in search of work and a better life for themselves and their families. There is no housing to accommodate these people and thus there are numerous shanty towns stretching for kilometres over the Cape Flats.
‘At the same time’ white people who previously benefited from apartheid through property accumulation, education, job reservation and many beneficial laws are still maintaining a high standard of living and the effects are indeed felt through the generations.
It is our feeling, as the LG committee, that we, as white South Africans and other Westerners, owe a debt to our South African brothers and sisters and that we need to help where we can. Also as Bible-believing Christians, God urges us to love our neighbour, look after our brothers in need and to help the poor.
It is our hope that the effect of what we do will also be felt through the generations of the families that we help.
Take a look at any of these sites to get a fuller picture of our colourful history:
Land and Housing
The issue of land has always been a contentious one and is still on-going in South Africa. Through apartheid laws and enforcement thereof in the previous century – most South Africans have been robbed of their homes, education and livelihoods.
As a result of urbanisation and migration – exacerbated by the forced removals and homelands of the apartheid era -over 1,500,000 people currently live in shacks in the Western Cape. This province has more than 222 informal settlements and approximately 105 000 homesteads that have little or no access to running water, electricity and proper sanitation – most have to rely on ‘the bucket system’ in lieu of toilets.
Our Government acknowledges the huge challenges and is desperately trying to build houses as quickly as possible but does concede it will not be achieved easily or quickly. In fact both the Minister of Human Settlements and our own Major have admitted it could take up to 20 years to clear the housing backlog.
The subsequent lack of hygiene, healthy living conditions, and loss of dignity is a gaping wound on the outskirts of our city, with the wealth and comforts of thousands only a few kilometres away. These makeshift houses are susceptible to the elements, the common occurrence of runaway fires, severe flooding and constant leaks during the winter rains. Countless people carry on year after year in poor conditions, many without hope of change.
The living conditions of a large majority of South African’s are desperately inadequate was witnessed by our President in a visit to a Township in Johannesburg. It was reported that he was nearly reduced to tears seeing the living conditions of one family who live in a shack.
The plight of the people touches or should touch everyone.
History of Level Ground
The founder of Level Ground, Jeremy Cons elaborates on how Level Ground started – in response to the inadequacy of housing in South Africa:
Level Ground probably commenced when the first disadvantaged South African built their own bungalows (shacks), but in reality it started in 2002. When my wife, Darlene, and I came to live in South Africa and learn to work amongst the poor, we were immediately confronted with the desperate situations people live in.
Over the next couple of years I became involved with Habitat for Humanity building houses which enforced my passion to see disadvantaged South Africans living in brick homes. For the next few years this passion laid dormant, but in 2007 I shared my passion for housing and education with Gary and Wendy Appleton, who caught it and were keen to be involved.
In early 2008 I saw a house for sale in Langa. At this point my passion for brick homes was re-ignited and over a few months God continued to stir this passion. Mid 2008 I knew I had to take it further. So considering who to partner us in this venture, I obviously asked Gary and Wendy to be involved. Feeling led by God I asked Werner, who had over a period of time been stirred by God to be involved in housing for disadvantaged South Africans. In chatting over legal things with Ulrik Strandvik, our legal adviser, he showed interest, along with Mike Fehrsen and Solvej Strandvik.
The first gathering of interested folk happened on 23rd June 2008 and all in attendance were keen to start a body. As I read Ps 26 v 12 the words Level Ground struck me. Believing we had to level the playing field for the disadvantaged Level Ground seemed an apt name.
August 2008 a constitution was agreed and as a legal entity Level Ground was established. Over the next 2 years we have established a method of selecting beneficiaries, a process of preparing beneficiaries, opened bank accounts, received funds and grown passionate to see disadvantaged South African housed in brick homes.
We continue to look to God for His guidance, wisdom and provision.
Psalm 26:12 My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the LORD.