Squatters have had enough and are demanding to be heard
Overcrowding, streets filled with faeces and illegal power connections are problems these residents live with every day
Overcrowded, overrun with rubbish and filled with the ripe smell of human faeces.
This is the place Slindile Cele calls home.
Informal trader Cele, 35, is one of the hundreds of people who have been living without electricity or proper sanitation in the densely populated Cato Manor informal settlement, a place she described as having no hope.
“Life here is not right. It’s not a place any human should have to live in. Our kids are always getting sick.”
On a daily basis, Cele said she had to deal with burst pipes flooding the narrow passages and the unpleasant barrage of human waste.
“We don’t have toilets, we have long drops, and those who don’t have the long drops relieve themselves on the floor – it’s disgusting,” Cele said.
According to Stats SA 2011, she is one of more than five million South Africans living in informal settlements across the country, and all she wishes to do is to leave something behind for her 21-year-old daughter and 18-month-old granddaughter.
To secure a legacy for her daughter, Cele joined hundreds of shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo members who took to the streets of Mayville, Durban, on Friday to demand electricity and proper sanitation from the department of public works.
“Even if they don’t want to give us proper housing and sanitation, then at the very least they must give us title deeds so that we can be able to build for ourselves. We can’t even build anything because they can come at any time and destroy our homes,” Cele said.
“I am here today because when I die one day I want to be able to leave something for daughter and my grandchild. I don’t want to leave her on the street,” Cele explained.
Cele said her fight for basic housing had not been an easy one.
“I have been threatened and intimidated, but I will not stop using my voice and fighting for what is rightfully mine. I have been fighting since I got here in 2013, and I won’t stop.”
Cele said one of her biggest fears about living in the informal settlement was the safety of her 18-month-old granddaughter.
“Because we don’t have electricity we have to rely on illegal connections from izinyoka [people who illegally connect electricity]. This gives me such anxiety because we have live wires running on the floor of the informal settlement and our children can get electrocuted at any moment,” she said.
Nokuthula Zuma, who was also present at the march, has been living in an informal settlement in KwaSanti, south of Durban, for 25 years. She said all she wanted to do was pay municipal rates.
“We want water. We also want to be able to pay the municipality like everyone else,” she said.
Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesperson Mqapheli Bonono said they would never give up the fight for housing.
“These are rights [housing and sanitation] enshrined in the Constitution, and we are prepared to fight left and right until we have gained them,” Bonono said.
Abahlali are planning a mass march on Monday to the Durban city hall.