KZN families living in old bakery want adequate houses

2015-10-21 08:22
Andiswa Bera has been living in an old bakery in Umlazi since 2003. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Andiswa Bera has been living in an old bakery in Umlazi since 2003. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban – Fifteen families, who say they were forced to move from their homes due to natural disasters spanning 10 years, remain sheltered in a dilapidated building which was once a bakery.

The families, living in Umlazi’s W section, said their cries for adequate housing from the eThekwini Municipality have fallen on deaf ears.

The local councillor, however, has rubbished their claims, saying the families were illegally occupying the building.

A 23 year-old man, who said his younger sister was gang-raped at the bakery, said he regretted moving his family there.

“Our house was destroyed during heavy rains in 2010 and we were forced to move in here in 2013 because after my mother died we had no money to pay for the room we were renting.”

Speaking about the tragedy, he said during the December holidays in 2013, he left to play soccer and returned later to discover his then 13-year-old sister had been gang-raped.

“When I came back one of the children told me that my sister was sleeping in one of the rooms.

“I went to the room and found my sister lying on the bed. I asked her where she had been and she told me a group of men forced her to drink alcohol and then raped her.”

He believed that if his family had their own home his sister could have been spared.

Nowhere else to go

“The municipality needs to move all of these families into proper homes to prevent what happened to my sister from happening to the other children living here. These people are here because they have nowhere else to go,” he said.

After reporting the matter, he decided to move his family out of the bakery. They now share a room in W section.

Andiswa Bera has been living at the bakery since 2003. She said the bakery was previously owned by Tiger Brands and the company vacated the building after it was bombed in the 1990s.

Bera said people started using the building for community activities in 2003 and families were moved into the building after the heavy rains in 2010.

“In 2010, people living in W section and Siyabuswa informal settlement lost their houses and they were moved here temporarily. In 2013, more people moved in who were affected by the 2013 rains but they were moved to transit camps in W section.

“Some families remained behind and in 2014, more people moved in. There are 15 families living in the building at the moment.”

(Amanda Khoza, News24)

Living in fear

Bera said the families lived in fear because the doors and the windows were broken.

“This building could collapse anytime. There is no privacy, the only thing that separates us from our neighbours is a piece of plastic,” she said.  

Gwajo Hadebe, 28, said the families have reported their dire conditions to the councillor and the municipality but nothing had been done.

“The problem is that our councillor politicises everything…There are all these housing projects that are always coming up like Cornubia but none of these people have been prioritised, some have been living here for more than 10 years,” he said.

Hadebe said, “He [the councillor] always sends us from pillar to post. We also reported the matter to the city and escalated the matter to the mayor’s office but nothing has been done.”

Ward 82 councillor, Amon Dladla said, “We submitted every person’s name who was moved there temporarily... because the conditions were bad. People who were placed there temporarily were moved to transit camps. After everyone was moved, those families moved in.

“They are invading because we did not give them permission to live there.”

Dladla said he reported the family’s plight to Mayor James Nxumalo’s office and the matter was being investigated.

The eThekwini Municipality was not immediately available for comment.

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