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Charity trades rats for cellphones in South African township

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rat (shutterstock)
rat (shutterstock)

Southern-African charity LifeLine has started a new initiative to try and rid a Johannesburg township of rats. Alexandra has been overrun by rodents for years now, making its residents' daily struggle for sanitary living conditions that much harder. In an attempt to spark a community movement, LifeLine is offering a free cellphone to any resident that manages to capture 60 rats. One resident told the Mail & Guardian that he had already "won" two phones through the scheme, which has been running for several months, and planned to get one for all of his family members.

Alexandra is one of the most impoverished areas in South Africa. Poor infrastructure, leaking sewers, and chronic over-crowding make it a perfect breeding ground for rats. The local council has attempted to fight the infestation by setting rat traps throughout the township, but the measures have so far been ineffective. Councillor Julie Moloi explains that there's a real fear that the rodents will "take over" and Alexandra will become "a city of rats." Other initiatives have included giving owls — prolific rat hunters — to local schools, but the birds have met with resistance as traditional belief systems see owls as creatures to be feared.