No change after Zuma promise

2012-02-11 16:19

Portia Mrwetyana, who lives in a squatter camp outside the western Gauteng township of Bekkersdal, wrote to President Jacob Zuma on Facebook last year, bemoaning the lack of houses, piped water and electricity.

“What I wanna know is why treat us differently, but we give you the same vote?” she wrote.

Zuma answered with a promise that 400 000 of the 1.2-million households now living in informal settlements would have security of tenure and access to basic services by 2014.

This week, City Press visited the Silver City informal settlement to find out if their lives had changed since Zuma’s address last year. Although Mrwetyana could not be found, her old neighbours said that life remained the same.

Their settlement is pretty much the same as it was when it was established in 1986. The only difference is that each yard had a chemical toilet installed around 1998, and residents draw water from taps.
They still have no electricity or houses.

Thirty-six-year old mineworker Themba Mtande, who grew up in the area, said the local municipality has refused to bring the much-needed services directly to their households because Silver City was built on a potential dolomitic sinkhole.

Bekkersdal, across the road, had every service its residents needed.

Mtande said he would like to have a low-cost house with running water so he would not have to walk over 100m to the communal tap.

The father of one said he expected to see changes after Zuma mentioned Bekkersdal in his state of the nation address, but he had not seen anything change.

Another resident, Lesawana Makwanyane (56), said he had been on the housing waiting list for a “long time” and would like a home of his own one day.

“I feel bad about living here because there are no services,” he said.

But the Presidency said, when its officials assessed how they could help Mrwetyana and her neighbours, they discovered that the informal settlement was built on a potential sinkhole.

In a statement, presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said government was in the process of moving the community to nearby Mohlakeng municipality, which has suitable land for housing.

“Government is confident that her family and the community will soon benefit from the resettlement programme,” Maharaj said.

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