No power for the forgotten flood victims

eMathinini Transit Camp on Gwala Street where residents have lived in a dump for 16 years. They complained about overcrowding, crime, and other social ills. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ Independent Newspapers

eMathinini Transit Camp on Gwala Street where residents have lived in a dump for 16 years. They complained about overcrowding, crime, and other social ills. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 10, 2024



Durban — In light of the recent storm in oThongathi and some parts of Ballito, the 2022 flood victims are still in the dark in Inanda.

The flood victims have been housed in a transit camp that does not have electricity.

The oldest transit camps within eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality host different generations of residents, with some from as far back as 2007 and 2013 to as recent as 2018-2020.

The 2007 batch came in from 2004 councillors, after the floods between 2005-2007.

In transit camp time frames, there are former mayor Obed Mlaba’s (mayor from 1996-2011) generation, going on to James Nxumalo (2011- 2016) and Zandile Gumede (2016-2019) up to current mayor of eThekwini Mxolisi Kaunda.

Joe Ntsoane said he had been living in a ward 75 Transit camp known as “eMathinini” at the corner of Gwala Street for many years.

He said that instead of seeing people get out, different generations come in and temporary accommodation slowly develops into a slum.

“Life hurts at eMathinini, there are those who arrived here in 2007 and others for instance in 2013. But if you compare these people’s lives, there is no improvement from the oldest occupants to the most recent, nothing has changed. It is still the same as we got here,” Ntsoane said.

Ntsoane took water and sanitation as a good example for someone trying to determine if they are on their own or that is all lies.

“Anything that breaks in this camp is the responsibility of residents and we fix the damage with almost no resources.”

This is something another resident alluded to.

Phindiwe Mafenuka, one of the first to arrive at eMathinini, claimed that the houses they were supposed to be relocated to were given to different people and not the residents of this particular camp.

North-west of the city, there are various camps, where parents live with their kids, others up to 5 and 6 years.

One resident of Lindelani told the Daily News that she lost her house four years ago and she has been living with young children – and the transit camp has become her home.

Siyabonga Xakaza said he was placed in the Inanda transit camp in 2022 and they do not have any electricity and toilets in the camps.

“We use candles in the camp. Recently one unit burned down after they left the candle on and it fell over. This is worrisome for us since we feel unsafe if any fire spreads because we do not even have water,” he said.

Ntokozo Khuzwayo was brought by the 2019 floods to Lindelani. There is a new batch of flood victims who at least enjoyed the proper care of the city government.

“It has been six years since we first arrived as residents in this camp. We came here after the 2019 floods,” said Khuzwayo.

According to Khuzwayo, they are 13 in one small space, which has forced the family to split, with others now living with relatives. She said her kids go to school, despite a difficult situation.

Duduzile Ngubane also joined Lindelani in 2019. According to her, one of their major issues is water and sanitation. She said kids and dogs emptied their bowels in the yard due to a lack of water to flush – the same yard kids play in.

“No one has asked or documented anything to do with our relocation. If we call our ward councillor he does not come. He knows we would like to raise vital concerns,” Ngubane said.

City spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said the plan was to complete the relocation of the remaining transit camps by the end of 2026, but this deadline could be extended due to the unavailability of suitable land.

“While the City’s human settlements unit aims to relocate vulnerable households, the reality is that suitable land is scarce and funding for new houses is severely constrained, limiting construction and allocation of homes,” Sisilana said.

She said the criteria used for the relocation of transit camps were that they accommodated special needs and fair allocation within all wards of the council. Sisilana said because of these criteria, the City could not afford a complete relocation of a transit camp, hence the challenge of the few remaining transit camps that also cost the city in terms of maintenance and services provided.

Sisilana said the transit camps will also be electrified as part of the city’s ongoing efforts to improve living conditions for all residents.

“The City has relocated residents from 29 transit camps into various housing projects, including Cornubia. This relocation has left 42 transit camps to be cleared,” she said.

“To date, a total of 3 676 families have been relocated. However, some units were not demolished as they are being used on a rotational basis, with 2 224 transit camp units demolished.

“In line with the imperatives of the Constitution, particularly Section 26, the City is committed to making every effort to ensure that these families are afforded their progressive right to decent shelter,” Sisilana said.

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