Media: Pride is no substitute for a house

12 01 2009


SQUALOR: Service delivery is a myth in East London’s Duncan Village Picture: GARY HORLOR

Source: Sunday Times

Eastern Cape villagers say they have been forsaken by the ANC

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked Nothemba Fazzie what she wanted from the government, she said, “Nothing”.

Now, 12 years later, Fazzie, 81, wishes she had said this: “That its leaders ensure the ANC remains the party of the people; the movement for which my sons gave their lives.”

The mother of two “martyrs”, and an ANC activist of more than 40 years, the widow lives on R250 a month, after splitting her pension four ways.

Much worse for her is that she’s had to open her tiny home in Duncan Village, near East London, as a sanctuary for shack-dwellers across the road: a place to draw water and use a working toilet .

Fazzie will cast her ballot for the party in the forthcoming election, but not without bitterness. “This struggle for personal power and enrichment is not what we sacrificed for — I am so disappointed,” she says.

One of Fazzie’s sons, Mziwanele, was killed in Lesotho while delivering messages for exiled leaders; another, Sicelo, drowned while crossing the Orange River, trying to smuggle activists out of the country.

Two framed plaques in their memory hang on one wall of her living room; ANC flags and pictures of Mandela line the other.

A former nurse, affectionately known as “Mama Fazzie” in Duncan Village, says the government had repeatedly promised to remove Mziwanele’s remains from a grave in Maseru for reburial at home, but had failed to deliver.

“The ANC has forgotten the downtrodden people,” Fazzie says. “This is how service delivery is dealt a heavy blow: when one mayor comes, he has one vision, and when the other takes over, she comes with a contradicting plan.

“The same goes with the building of houses. In the late 1990s there were lists to relocate people living in informal settlements to proper houses in neighbouring suburbs, but when those houses were finished, new councillors drafted new lists.”

Fazzie says crime has exploded in the township since the last election, while the cost of living has grown to the point where she can’t afford fruit for the household of four.

“We now have hundreds of people who have stayed in shacks, sharing pit toilets for over 30 years, and there is no programme to improve the lives of these people,” she says.

For Albertina Dumba and hundreds of her female neighbours the situation is similarly bleak. They have to walk for more than an hour every day to the settlement’s only toilet block.

Most of the men, says Dumba, just use the fetid stream that divides the 10000 shacks in East London’s Duncan Village township. The 78-year-old widow makes a daily hike to collect water, which sloshes over her dress from heavy buckets as she skids down a crumbling, reeking gulley to her shanty.

East London’s oldest township, Duncan Village is one of South Africa’s most overcrowded slums: home to some 120 000 residents; two-thirds of whom live in shacks.

Like many of her neighbours, Dumba applied for an RDP house in the mid-’90s, and has heard nothing but promises of imminent delivery ever since. If it rains, her shack leaks like a sieve; if it rains a lot, the stream floods the house completely.

Status in the settlement is measured this way: anyone able to pay R30 for the right to use one resident’s private long-drop toilet for a month.

Standing in a spot just 10km from where Jacob Zuma yesterday unveiled his election manifesto, Dumba said: “The ANC has given us only pride, but I cannot live only on pride: I need a house.”

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