Railway residents in dire straits

2018-06-29 06:00
Nomakhephu Siphengana chops wood at the old Railway Station in KokstadPHOTO: siphelele nketo

Nomakhephu Siphengana chops wood at the old Railway Station in KokstadPHOTO: siphelele nketo

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PEOPLE who have been living in the old railway station in Kokstad say they have been exposed to diseases because of poor conditions they live under. The community blames politicians who keep asking for votes yet do nothing to make their lives better.

Fever reporter Siphelele Nketo spoke to several residents about their living conditions.

Residents said that, during election campaigns, politicians visit their area to ask for votes and make empty promises.

Children can be seen playing next to unclean water; water that gave off an unpleasant odour.

Nomakhephu Siphengana, who has been residing in the area since 2013, was seen chopping wood to prepare a fire because the area has no electricity.

“Every time we approach elections, politicians always come to our area, listen to our needs and disappear after elections. We need proper houses and jobs because many of us are unemployed,” said Siphengana.

The area was previously used as a railway station in Kokstad. After it was left vacant, people occupied it by erecting shacks while others occupied the vacant houses in the area. Some people have put cupboards boxes and plastic bags in broken windows and others live in old caravans.

Another resident, Nowandile Sontshantsha (58) from Umzimkhulu, started staying in the area in 2015 after her husband received a job at a panel beaters shop in Kokstad. She stays in a small room with eight grandchildren, six children and her husband.

“I am unemployed and sometimes I look for jobs in Kokstad town so as to assist my husband to feed the family.

“Previously, we fetched water from Umzimtlava River but we stopped after we discovered that the water had been polluted,” said Sontshantsha.

She said, during winter, they collected lots of wood to keep warm: “We use paraffin stoves for cooking,” she said.

The Feverwas informed that many children in the area do not have birth certificates and thus do not receive child support grants and are unable to complete their schooling.

As a way of getting out of poverty, many children end up begging for money in the streets of Kokstad or they seek small jobs.

Thapelo Morai (38) failed matric in 2001 and, because of difficulties in finding work, he ended up sleeping in the streets and under bridges until he moved to the place which he now calls home. He said that when he arrived he saw a small vacant toilet which he changed into a house.

“I converted one of the rooms, which was previously used as a toilet, at the station into a house and I feel secure inside it,” said Morai, who was seen sitting on top of a bed made by rocks. There was a newspaper next to him and when he was asked about it he said he was looking for job opportunities.

“I read newspapers for knowledge and to look for job opportunities,” he said.

Greater Kokstad Municipality speaker and Ward 3 councillor Zolani Mhlongo said the municipality understands that there were people who illegally occupied the old railway station.

“The former railway station is not owned by the municipality and people have been told to leave the area.

“I have been helping the people from the area to bury their loved ones by using money from my own pocket,” said Mhlongo.

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