Century-long service delivery struggle looms for eThekwini’s informal settlements
The KZN municipality faces a 90-year backlog to address issues such as area electrification, improvement in sanitation and allocation of RDP housing
It will take the eThekwini Municipality almost a century to deal with the backlog of problems at informal settlements across the metro. This is according to the head of communications at the municipality, Lindiwe Khuzwayo.
“It would take the municipality more than 90 years to address the current informal settlement ‘backlog’, given the current fiscal allocations and other constraints such as limited well-located and developed land, [and] lack of bulk service capacity, which constrain the rate of formal housing delivery,” she said.
Families at Foreman Road informal settlement in Durban have been asking the city to electrify their shacks and improve sanitation.
GroundUp recently visited the community, which is densely populated with about 3,000 shacks. Some are built on wetlands, so the ground is always damp. Throughout the area, the foul smell of faeces and sewage fills the air, particularly on humid days.
Residents say they protested in 2018 to demand electricity, among other services. They said the municipality sent a contractor to install electricity, but only a few shacks received formal electricity. Most shacks at Foreman Road still rely on illegal connections.
Mqapheli Bonono, deputy chair of housing movement Abahlali BaseMjondolo, said his was one of the households that did not receive electricity in 2018. He believed his home was excluded because of his activist role in the community.
He said the City only installed electricity at his shack after GroundUp reported on his struggles. Bonono said Abahlali has been trying to get answers from the city about why some shacks had not been electrified, but to no avail.
“There was no transparency on the tender details or how many shacks were meant to benefit. What happened is that electricity was installed in one shack, then they skipped the next two and so on,” he said.
Ntombikayise Lukwana said her shack had been skipped when the electricity installation was done. “Till today we don’t know why certain houses didn’t receive electricity. I’m one of the people who started this informal settlement, but electricity was not installed in my shack,” she said.
Not a single person from [Foreman Road] informal settlement has been moved to RDP houses. When there’s a disaster, the [eThekwini Municipality] moves us to transit camps to stay there for years.Mqapheli Bonono, deputy chair of Abahlali BaseMjondolo
Another major issue raised by several people was poor sanitation.
Some residents say they relieve themselves in buckets, because the communal toilets are usually blocked and some are broken. Several rows of trenches have been dug between shacks. We were told that residents had done this so that overflowing sewage could drain through the settlement.
Bonono believes the municipality has forgotten about the residents of Foreman Road. “Not a single person from this informal settlement has been moved to RDP houses. When there’s a disaster, the city moves us to transit camps to stay there for years,” he said.
Resident Bathande Gantsa said he has been living there since 2012 and the overflowing sewage has always been a problem. “As you can see, it goes straight under the shacks. Inside my shack, the floor is wet. Day and night, we smell this,” he said.
The municipality’s Khuzwayo blamed the lack of adequate services on insufficient available funds and the rising number of land occupations. She said Foreman Road was one of 595 informal settlements in the metro.
“Any interventions at Foreman Road will be dependent on the availability of funding, alternative land and active participation of the community.
“Unfortunately, the continued invasion at Foreman Road has made it extremely difficult to plan and budget for any long-term or permanent solutions,” she said. Khuzwayo said the municipality had delivered more than 200,000 RDP houses since 1994.
On the electrification project, Khuzwayo said the mushrooming of shacks and ongoing land occupations “continues to compound their woes”.
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