Big oil’s generational curse: pollutant-related epigenetic changes keeps South Africans in poverty cycle

Oliver Meth.
Gender-based violence activist Oliver Meth stands outside his childhood home, holding an acknowledgement of his contribution to South Africa’s constitutional values, awarded to him by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The Engen refinery can be seen in the background.

Not much has changed in the 40 years since Shareeza Domingo’s family moved out of Wentworth.

It is a Saturday morning and the streets are beginning to buzz with children’s voices as they prepare to partake in soccer fixtures scheduled around the neighbourhood. Even those who don’t play for official school teams at the sporting grounds opposite Engen’s rotting refinery are putting together teams for tournaments at makeshift pitches next to its infamous flats. Aunty Kat is already seated at her spot in the shade of an adjacent tree, where she spends her days waving at passersby.

Wentworth is certainly one of those South African townships where everyone knows everyone else.

Former resident Shareeza Domingo recalls a typical weekend in the neighbourhood during her youth: “There was little to be done in the 1970s, I would say. Basically, it would be a trip to town to do your shopping, get back and the kids were all in the road and everyone was playing, parents are braaing and having time together.”

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