The Current

A month in a life of poverty: The Hewitt Family

A white South African father wanted his daughters to understand the desperation of their fellow citizens -- so the family left the Pretoria suburbs to live in an impoverished township.
This summer Julian and Ena Hewitt moved their family from a gated community outside Pretoria to a nearby impoverished South African township for a month to understand life "on the other side." But not everyone agrees that the Hewitts' life experiment is a valuable one.


From the Pretoria suburbs to live in an impoverished township ...

Julian and Ena Hewitt are middle class, white South Africans. They live in a comfortable gated community, complete with domestic help in Pretoria. But for the past month, they and their 2 girls lived in a shack along side thousands of poor, black South Africans. No car, no bath, no running water.


The Hewitt's believe empathy is crucial
to democracy.

The Hewitt family blogged about its experiences in Mamelodi township, generating discussion, and criticism.

  • Julian & Ena Hewitt joined us from a studio in Johannesburg.

  • Wilmot James is a Member of Parliament with the Democratic Alliance. He is also the shadow Minister of Trade and Industry for his party. He admires The Hewitt's experiment.

  • Sibusiso Tshabalala is a law student and blogger who has been critical about the family. Last year he was recognized with an international award for his work on helping to improve literacy skills in disadvantaged communities. He is critical of the Hewitt's because he feels their act does nothing to change the socioeconomic divide between white and black South Africans. Sibusiso Tshabalala was in Cape Town.

What do you think of The Hewitt's move to the Mamelodi township? Inspiring or Patronizing?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath, Peter Mittion and Lara O'Brien.


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