Along the edge of the plots, the Wildsplaas provides a barrier of sorts between the plots and a large township. The erection of shack dwellings by people for whom no space in the township can be found is also a growing reality. In this case, the reason is desperation of many families for a place to stay, not self-enrichment. From the plot lands in the early morning the sun is reflected off corrugated iron structures that seem to be coming closer every year. At present they are still along the top of a fairly distant hill, but deep into the Wildsplaas.

The name Wildsplaas comes from what it was once used for. Long ago, no doubt before the owner realised how far and how fast the city would soon be spreading, he decided to turn the place into a game reserve.

For a while the idea worked. The sturdy, high fences he erected to keep predators inside and unruly humans out must have costs a fortune, but the place was an hour’s drive from the centre of the country’s capital and the animals you could see in the Kruger National Park with a bit of luck you may see there. He had the animals and a bushveld environment that stretched along a row of hills for some kilometres. Visitors could believe they were in the wilderness.

But no good thing last forever. The city continued to spread and the presence of wild animals so close to the suburbs was a cause of concern. Eventually, the animals had to go. In any event, the fences had started coming down, the process assisted both by vandals and by nature. Today, a few farmers allow their livestock to graze on the land. But the herder is never far away and at night the animals are taken to kraals that are well lit and patrolled. Thieves are the danger now, not lions and hyenas.

The smallholders are not the only people to make use of what remains of the Wildsplaas. Because the bush is dense and almost impenetrably covered with thorn scrub in places and in easy reach of the plots, it is an ideal place for thieves to store animals they have stolen. Some smallholders, accompanied by their friends, have found their stolen livestock deep in the bush where the thieves were holding them against the right opportunity to ship them away. Sometimes tendons have been cut to prevent the animals from drifting away. Others have been slaughtered and the most valuable cuts taken away to be sold, the rest of the carcass left for the small animals of the bush. If the owners find their stolen animals alive and whole, they drive them home and do their best to improve the security provisions. At least one arrest for murder has followed the killing of an intruder.

This is not the only illegal activity in the old Wildsplaas though. Heavy trucks trundle up bush tracks daily to steal loads of valuable building sand, in the process they have already destroyed a large wetland. More than one court order had been issued to stop the activity, but so far no one has been able to enforce the order.

The old system that provided order, but a form of dictatorship, was already losing control when the national government changed. The new order, while democratic, provides little control or order. As in the old days, the game still belongs to those who are able to manipulate the rules.

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The Wildsplaas