A decade of waiting and still no houses for transit camp people
In 2009, the government moved hundreds from their homes and into the 'temporary' camp in Isipingo, south of Durban
Unemployed Thokozani Nzama is convinced he will die in the transit camp he was moved to about 10 years ago – a supposed temporary fix until his low-cost home was built.
Nzama has lived in dismal conditions at the camp, located in Isipingo, south of Durban, since 2009.
Housing officials told him at the time that his house would be built within 18 months.
Today, Nzama still has no house to speak off.
He is one of many hundreds of people who have been living at the transit camp all these years, hoping that one day their dreams of living in permanent abodes would be realised.
The camp was initially set up by the government as a temporary measure, until low-cost houses were built.
“I was staying in Malvern when they came and told me that I have to move to this camp. They said that the property where I was staying belonged to someone else, but up to today no one is occupying that property,” said 45-year-old Nzama.
“They told us we would be here for 18 months. What year is it now? Everything is stuck; we are all stuck in this place and we are ageing.
“I think I will die here before I even get a house. I used to be angry about it, but now I have come to accept that we have been forgotten.”
About 1,050 people who occupy the 411 shacks in the camp face a similar fate to Nzama.
Zamile Sobiso, 29, said she had been living with her family in Umlazi when the government informed them it required the land they had been occupying in preparation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
“We were moved here in 2009. Where we used to stay has been made into a park and a mall is there now.”
Sobiso was referring to the nearly R300m KwaMnyandu Shopping Centre in nearby Umlazi, which was completed around 2014.
“What is more important, a place for people to shop, or providing homes for the 400 people who have to use and share seven toilets among themselves?”
She claimed the municipality had not provided electricity for them, leaving the men in the camp to install izinyoka-nyoka (illegal connections) to street lights.
“We have issues with the water we have been supplied, and when it comes to electricity we steal it and the municipality knows about this,” she said.
A walk through the dusty pathways of the camp revealed hundreds of metres of cables, illegally connected and posing a serious threat to the residents.
The municipality failed to respond to questions about allegations that it was aware of these illegal connections.
Despite the many challenges they face, many of the residents revealed they would be going to the polls in May because if they did not vote it may result in them never securing a low-cost home.
Bonisiswe Cele, 70, is one such resident.
“This is not a place for people to live, but where can I stay? I am suffering with pains in my legs. They are constantly sore. We have to vote because if we don’t we might not receive a home.”
Cele said she was angry with the government.
“When they moved me from where I had been living I did not know where we would be going. I did not know anyone in this place,” she said.
Following an oversight visit to the Ward 90 camp earlier this month, Zamani Khuzwayo, a DA councillor who serves on the human settlements and infrastructure committee, pointed out some of the “atrocious and unhealthy conditions” that residents had been subjected to.
“There is no running water, proper ablution facilities, and poor electricity connections. Children are plagued by numerous water-borne diseases due to lack of basic sanitation and cleanliness. After 25 years of democracy, no South African should live in conditions such as those in which residents of the Ward 90 Transit Camp live,” he said.
Kiru Naidoo, spokesperson for human settlements and public works in the province, said MEC Ravi Pillay, accompanied by eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, recently met the residents to discuss three possible sites for relocation.
“This progress was well received by the community. While the transit camps are an unsatisfactory option, we are aware that eThekwini municipality has a range of current and immediate interventions to make the place more habitable.
“Interventions include cleaning, fixing leaking roofs, creating safe pathways, electrification and repairing ablution blocks.”
Naidoo dismissed claims that there had been a 10-year delay.
“There is no 10-year delay as 341 families have already been removed from the Isipingo Transit Camp and to the flagship housing project at Cornubia.”
Naidoo said the unavailability of suitable land, budget cuts and the moving target of a growing housing backlog, were among the challenges the project had faced.
“KZN builds at least 100 new houses every day and is a consistent top performer in housing delivery with 114,350 homes over the past five years.
“KZN always spends its full budgets and also gets allocations from unspent funds in other provinces. If we had more of a budget, we could build more houses but we have to work within current financial realities,” said Naidoo.
President of shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo S’bu Zikode agreed that the government could not provide everyone with houses, claiming that houses were awarded to those loyal to the ruling party.
“These structures are unfit for human habitation and are meant to be temporary structures.
“Our stance on the issue is that KZN does not have a proper plan in place to address the plight of shack-dwellers.”
Zikode said Abahlali’s outlook on the provisioning of homes had changed.
“Our demand has shifted from the provision of houses to rather the provision of land.
“A recent report stated that it would take government 60 years to provide everyone with houses. It’s not about land expropriation but more so about addressing the urgent narrative of providing houses at the same pace of urbanisation.”