It is just after 10:00 on Tuesday 27 October. Children and adults from the 18th Avenue informal settlement in Kensington, also known as “The Bush”, are wandering around aimlessly.
They are waiting for the water truck from the municipality to arrive.
They are hopeful that today is one of their “lucky” days when the truck does arrive because some days, without prior warning, the truck doesn’t pitch and they are left thirsty.
“I made porridge for everyone this morning, so I used the last bit of our water. Now I can’t even make a cup of tea or wash because we are waiting for the truck; that is if they arrive,” says Illona Crouch, a committee member for the informal settlement. She runs a feeding scheme and feeds people twice a day.
Their plight for water and other basic services has been ongoing for several years.
“More than 20 years,” says 79-year-old Johannes Theys. That’s also how long he has been living in The Bush. Theys says, as an elderly man, he finds it insulting that they must beg and plea for water, which is a basic human right.
For more than 20 years, hundreds of people have been calling this open piece of land home. A home without running water, electricity or toilets.
Since People’s Post’s last visit at the site in June, residents say nothing has changed (“Locals suffer water woes”, People’s Post, 23 June). They claim matters are getting worse daily. They say at the start of the lockdown, the truck came more regularly.
Urban Beyers, a resident and committee member, says: “To prevent Covid-19, you have to wash hands regularly. How do you do that if you barely have water to drink?”
Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for water and sanitation, says: “The City operates 15 trucks that deliver water across 87 settlements daily. Settlements included in the service should receive water every second day. The City does its utmost to ensure that all settlements are covered within a two-day cycle.
Beyers says they have been told that The Bush is not formally recognised as an informal settlement so the City cannot provide them with basic services. “But we have asked them continuously what process we need to follow to change this. Until today, they haven’t given us a straight answer.”
Leslie Swartz, chair for the Kensington Factreton Residents and Ratepayers Association (KFRRA), says: “Since Thursday 18 June, when our association once again met with officials, it has been nothing but promises. An application to have the site recognised as an informal settlement was made. Less than a week ago, our association was informed that the application for the site enumeration was made to the wrong department and the application now has to be resubmitted. Four months of wasted time.”
Malusi Booi, Mayco member for human settlements, says the property in question is privately owned.
“The City cannot recognise the informal settlement without the landowner’s consent. It, therefore, cannot be regarded as a recognised settlement on the City’s database.”
But residents are not convinced that the City has made contact with the landowners to set the plans in motion.
“We are not a violent community. We have gone through all the proper channels. But it’s as if they (the City) want us to protest and get violent first. Not even the dogs of those sitting in high positions in government are treated like we are treated,” says Beyers.
But Kevin Inglis, a spokesperson for the residents, says installing a tap on the site is much more cost-effective as there is a water main line close to the settlement.
Inglis claims all other informal settlements in the Kensington area has running water.
Responding to this, Limberg says: “The process to install a standpipe is ongoing and the City is working with its internal teams to ensure that this happens.”
Gladston Solomons, also a resident, says as a result of refuse not being collected, they now have an added problem of snakes and rodents.
Swartz says citizens are treated this badly while further up the street, a group of people from other countries have “access to clean piped water, sanitation and refuse collection and yet our very own local individuals are denied these essentials”.
“All we want is for the City to work with us and treat us fairly,” says Crouch.