Thania Moyo has to walk for five minutes through densely packed shacks to use a neighbourhood toilet in the yard of a family friend.
Though the 16-year-old was born in a democratic South Africa, she says she is not sure what freedom means.
Moyo has spent her life of “freedom” sharing a tiny shack with her parents and sister Samantha, 15, in the Zandspruit informal settlement, northwest of Johannesburg.
“Life is tough for us. If I want to use the toilet at night, I must leave our shack and walk to my neighbour on the other side,” she said yesterday.
“It is not always safe because it is sometimes dark when the street lights are not working.”
For the past few weeks, residents have burned tyres and blockaded roads in protest against the lack of toilets and sewerage, drains, roads, refuse collection and electricity.
The area was calm yesterday. There was a heavy police presence and a police helicopter flew over the shacks.
“I cannot explain what Freedom Day means, but I don’t think this is it,” Moyo said.
“The government should build houses with toilets in the area because there is no privacy here.”
Across the settlement, David Majozi celebrated Freedom Day sick and unemployed.
The clinic in Zandspruit was closed for the holiday.
“The clinic is one of the hardest problems we face,” said Majozi, who has lived in the settlement for 27 years. “It is understaffed. It is too small.
“When it is open, the queue stretches forever. Even if you are very sick, they tell you ‘Go home; come back tomorrow’.”
Both of Majozi’s eyes are infected, and a bulbous tumour protrudes below his left eye.
He is one of many Zandspruit residents who feel disillusioned about the democracy that was to have made life better.
The sewerage cap at the clinic, like so many pipes throughout Zandspruit, leaks grey water into nearby shacks and onto the road, forming a stream that fills the paths between homes, and flows under the floor of some houses.
Some residents have placed bricks across their floors and paths to allow them to walk without stepping into the muck.
The streams run down to a reservoir that separates the informal settlement from neighbouring middle-class suburbs such as Honeydew and Sonnedal.
Danie Tsabo, who lives in a shack with his wife and four children, says toilets are in such high demand that some of his neighbours have padlocked theirs so that they have sole use of them.
As he spoke, Tsabo stared at a photograph of a house belonging to his former employer, who left South Africa in 2002.
“Even if I don’t get this house, I dream that one day I can move to a decent house with my family,” he said.
Christina Ralane applied for a house in 1996: “We are promised houses and nothing . but empty promises. Nothing gets better. ”