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#DurbanStorm: Uganda shackdwellers decry broken promises of housing

NEWS COMMENTARY

Fallen trees, washed away roads and flooded pavements are not all that the people of Durban have had to endure in the aftermath of last week’s storm. Many were left homeless, with no shelter or guarantee of safety. A few kilometres from Isipingo lies the Uganda informal settlement, a poverty-stricken area that is home to about 150 families, there is manifests fear and desperation, as people cast about for material to rebuild their homes and food to feed their children.

When The Daily Vox visited the settlement on Wednesday, children were playing around and adults were trying desperately to mend their homes so that they could have shelter when night fell. Many slept in the open on Tuesday night after their shacks were razed by gusts of winds and rain.

“We’ve been trying to restore our homes but it’s not easy. The damage seems to be beyond our control,” says Nophumo Mahanjana, 36, pointing at the scraps of debris left from what used to be her home. All that remains in the yards of her neighbours are poles and shreds of metal sheeting. Mattresses and blankets hang loosely on the trees to dry.

The fatal Durban storm reached a confirmed death toll of eight. Some who went missing have still not been found. Roads were washed away and large trees had fallen, wrecking people’s houses and cars. In Uganda settlement, about 75 families were displaced when the storm hit the area.

Sunil Brijmohan, a ward councillor says, “the city is working hard to help those who were displaced. The mayor came to see the situation, people were given mattresses, blankets and food parcels”.

However, days later, the displaced were still without shelter and had to rely on neighbours to let them sleep in their houses. Brijmohan said that they were still waiting for the Disaster Management Unit to hand over material for the displaced to rebuild their structures.

More than 133 schools were confirmed affected. It’s estimated the city will need R136-million to repair the damage. Several hospitals were also affected. One life was lost when a wall collapsed in Prince Mshiyeni Hospital. On Thursday Premier Willies Mchunu declared the province a disaster zone.

In Uganda, as in many informal settlements in South Africa, the living conditions are appalling. When storms hit the city, shackdwellers are more prone to suffering than anyone else, as their houses are made of refuse material. Illegally connected wires hover visibly above shanty homes.

People’s belongings were scattered all over the ground, including their clothing, furniture and mattresses. The shacks that had survived being washed away were flooded with water. In between houses lay trash, mud and bare wires.

Although the children of Uganda seem jolly (they don’t really understand the dire situation their community is in), the adults are in a mode of devastation. They still remember how they voted for a councillor who they thought would bring them a better life.

Like many poor South Africans, the future of the people of Uganda settlement is bleak. Most people here are unemployed, making it almost impossible for them to even rebuild their shacks. Izinyokanyoka (illegal electrical connections) are their only source of light and warmth.

The wait
Sibusiso Ntanzi, 33, has lived in this settlement for over a decade. He says they were promised houses years ago but the wait is nowhere in sight. “When we demand houses, we are constantly told to wait but it has been 11 years already,” he says.

There’s currently a dire shortage of housing in Durban. The province of KwaZulu-Natal bears a 650 000 unit housing backlog. The eThekwini Municipality has accumulated a series of uncompleted housing projects. According to the department of human settlements, the municipality alone carries a total of 400 000 unit backlog.

For the residents of Uganda, broken promises and hopelessness are all government has to offer. Councillors come and go but the community’s living circumstances never change. After 10 years, residents still live in cramped informal housing, squeezed close together into a narrow strip of land. Despite the great strides made in increasing access to social grants, with high unemployment, people continue to languish in poverty.

But Uganda is just one in a long list of Durban’s forgotten communities. While political bigshots canvas for votes ahead of the 2019 elections, social injustice and the cycle of poverty remain rife in South Africa’s informal settlements.

1 Comment
  1. Henry Price Jr. says

    comrades this is assignment I desire to fulfill for presidential administration of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. Fulfillment of this goal is long overdue plus should have started while Mandela was president. He acknowledged it was needed plus just compensation for years of mistreatment plus robbery Buntu endured under Apartheid government but, like a very very weak ex-con as president Mandela gave into deceitful causes given for not doing it plus settled with lining his pockets, his family members pockets plus cronies pockets with all rands rich Apartheid caucasians would allow them to get as those rich caucasian lined their pockets with even more rands. Every president after Mandela is rumored to have done same. There are many who acknowledge Jacob Zuma took too many rands now they wish to bring criminality to his actions however, they refuse to amend system which allowed if he did commit it ” state capture”. That is all “hog wash”. If you not going to amend system which allows for billions of rands to be stolen by way of corruption then why consider theft of those rands a criminal offense. Legislators are leaving doors open for further thefts by future politicians. They should not only make amendments to close doors to those thefts they should form department whose duty is to review all government transactions exceeding 140,000 rands whether transactions be purchases or sales involving mining or administration, construction etc. When it comes to constructing millions of low income homes I as a member of Buntu World would offer President Dr. Dlamini Zuma a plan for constructing those homes with cost far below all deceitful quotes given to this date. My plan would have us manufacturing supplies such as earth blocks, building cement, steel rods plus steel beams, plastic or /plus steel pipes windows etc. End result we could build a quality modern living low income home for fraction of deceitful prices provided to this date. In short we would be able to build several homes for what is now cost of one. Government could then provide those homes at cost to low income or as compensation for Apartheid robbery. These homes could come with requirements obligating owners to acquire education, training etc. Self-esteem in South Africa would rise quickly plus deservingly so. Buntu people focus would become turned toward upward financial plus social mobility. In under 10 years a nation will transform to a place where over half population need somebody to “lean on” to a place where citizens are focused at constructing a nation which is a world jewel. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will bring that kind of leadership to office of president plus I am willing to assist. Believe this whole world want my assistance but, Dr. Dlamini Zuma is one of very very few who is able to get it. Very much sincere, Henry Price Jr. aka Obediah Buntu IL-Khan aka Kankan aka Gue.

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