SA’s 5-million residents of informal settlements still dream of the services other South Africans take for granted. Over the past six weeks the Asivikelane campaign (“let’s protect each other” in Zulu) has reported that many residents still share communal toilets that are not regularly cleaned, queue for insufficient taps that are not repaired when they break, and tolerate refuse removal that depends on the whims of the truck driver. This endangers the lives of these residents daily, and during a pandemic, the lives of all South Africans.

Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has suddenly catapulted the fate of informal residents to the top of local governments’ agendas. In the past weeks the department of human settlements has delivered 41,000 water tanks, and local governments has mostly found money to fill them. The National Treasury found more than R5bn to allocate to informal settlement services, and some metropolitan municipalities are finding innovative ways to distribut...

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