Residents of the Ash Road (Jika Joe) informal settlement in the downtown area of the city say they are fed up with living in tents and are threatening to rebuild their shacks and mud houses if the Msunduzi Municipality does not address their complaints.
A strongly-worded statement outlining the residents’ complaint is in The Witness’s possession, but the writers do not wish to be named for fear of intimidation. They said the tents do not provide protection against the cold winter nights.
“We see many things planned for us, promised to us, and written about us in the newspapers, but there is never our voice - always it is the words and the empty promises and the visions of the politicians, the so-called leaders, and the municipality,” the statement reads.
It adds that it is not right for outsiders and “leaders” who are not forced to live in tents in the winter to be the only ones who speak. The residents say the leaders tell them the same thing in different ways. “For us who are living here, this makes us see that we are treated as if we are not people. We are human beings and now we are saying no more of this disrespect and lying. We are fed up.”
One of the residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a neighbour died in the tents, apparently from the cold. However, this was not confirmed by the police. She said he was buried two weeks ago.
The residents say they have been promised temporary housing in formal shacks and flats and the municipality has threatened to remove the few portable toilets made available for them.
“We think there is no future for us and our children living in tents or temporary tin houses. For us it will be better to rebuild our mjondolos [shacks] right here on the sports ground and this is what we will do. Our mud shacks give us a better protection from freezing cold and summer’s heat,” they said.
Msunduzi municipal manager Rob Haswell said a nearby site across the Dorpspruit has been identified and levelled to accommodate up to 180 temporary houses.
He said a tender for these houses closed yesterday. “It is expected that the appointed contractor would be on site by August 5 … with the first houses becoming available within the first week. In the short term, we will attend to any torn tents and continue to provide chemical toilets in an effort to improve living conditions, until those people living in tents can be moved into the temporary houses,” he said.