Mercury: Governments may change but things stay the same for shack dwellers

17 02 2009

February 17, 2009 Edition 1
NTOKOZO MFUSI from the Mercury

WHEN it rains, as it did last week, the residents of the KwaMancinza shack settlement scurry around with buckets to catch the water leaking through the gaps in their tin roofs.
For Thokozile Mqayi, who is one of the oldest people in the settlement near Ntuzuma, this has been a way of life for 30 years. And for 30 years, he and others have been asking first the National Party government and now the ANC government for proper services, such as sanitation, roads and water.

Despite repeated promises, they are still waiting.

Last week they took their frustrations to the streets, blockading a bus depot and burning tyres to get the attention of a government which, they said, had failed them. The protests turned ugly when they clashed with the police.

“We have been fighting the issue of housing and sanitation since the late 1970s, when we were told not to extend our one-roomed houses because proper houses would be built for us, but nothing has ever materialised,” said Mqayi.

The National Party government designated the area as “Indians only”, but shack dwellers settled there in 1970 and it grew into a settlement.

Mqayi said shack residents had once been arrested in 1977 for staging a march to the then mayor’s office, demanding service provision. After the march, their homes had been numbered and they had been put on a waiting list but they were yet to be allocated homes.

“When Mandela came out of jail, we voted because we were told we would be taken care of,” he said. “But we have nothing, we don’t even have electricity because this place has never been surveyed and we need to have title deeds before we can get electricity.”

Another resident, Alpheus Zulu, echoed Mqayi’s sentiments, saying the issues that they had protested about last week were not new.

“Our houses are leaking. They always fall and we can’t even rebuild because we were told not to. We have no toilets or roads. We live in two-roomed shacks while people around us who came after us have houses with electricity and water.”

The community have lost confidence in their councillor, Skhumbuzo Ndaba, who, they said, had done nothing for them since being elected.

“He lives in Durban North while we are living here like dogs,” said one community member who wanted to remain anonymous.

Another community member who has been in the area for 30 years, Jabulani Shangase, said there had been money donated to develop their area but the projects had disappeared with no explanations.

“In 1994 we voted and received money to the amount of R3.2 million from Mandela, donated by the Malaysian government,” said Shangase. “They said they would build houses for working residents who would pay for the houses but, halfway through the project, stopped and we heard the money was used to build houses in Mayville.”

Ndaba defended himself against accusations of incompetence, saying when he had been elected as the ward councillor in 2000, there had already been problems in the area.

“It’s not because I don’t want development or I don’t care for the people of KwaMancinza, but there were already problems when I came to the area. There was an issue of housing because people were given money for individual housing subsidies, and some people squandered the money and did not build houses.”

He said the housing department was still investigating the matter and had said that once the investigations had been completed, there would be a budget for housing in the area.

“The problem is that every time I reported back to the community, all they wanted to know was when houses would be built and would not entertain the issue of the investigations,” he said.

He had done his part to ensure that rubbish was collected, roads were fixed and job opportunities created.

There had been stand pipes put in to provide water, but new illegal water connections stopped the whole community from getting water.

Last week eThekwini Council Speaker James Nxumalo met the community’s representatives at the Durban City Hall. He is to hold a follow-up meeting on February 22 to report on how the council will handle housing, water, toilets, schools and other infrastructure.

Meanwhile, KwaMancinza’s residents have vowed to continue protesting if their efforts fail to bear fruit. And they have threatened not to vote for the ANC in the election.

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