by Aphiwe Ngwenya
Durban – Residents of the Isipingo transit camp say they are fed up with empty promises by municipal officials that they would be relocated to housing projects elsewhere in the city.
As the heavy rains continued to flood their homes this week, residents protested on the main road, burning tyres.
The camp is built in a flood plain and with little in the way of a drainage system, flooding is frequent occurrence.
Stagnant water lies in pools around the camp, a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Here and there rocks, planks and bricks have been placed to create stepping stones around the camp.
Unemployed mother-of-three, Meshi Kesram, 36, said her home had been flooded numerous times in the five years she had been at the transit camp. On the worst occasion the flood water was over one metre high.
“My son does not go to school when it rains. There will be water in the house, and it’s even harder to get around the passageways in this place because there is just still water,” said Kesram.
“Nobody works in this house. I’ve thrown away mattresses and sofas because they had been destroyed,” she said.
Kesram, who has been at the camp since moving from Malikazi in Isipingo in 2009, said her only daughter died in February and she believes the mould in her house caused by the flooding was to blame.
“I’ve tried to cement the floor and elevate the furniture and bed by adding bricks, but it still all gets soaked when it rains. The water seeps from beneath,” she said.
Tuckshop owner Nsizwazonke Mtshali, who moved to the transit camp from uMlazi to make way for upgrades to the King Zwelithini stadium before the 2010 World Cup, lives by the camp’s dumpsite and said he often sees residents throwing away their sodden furniture and mattresses after the rains.
“These people don’t have money, but they keep on buying new items because the old ones are destroyed and there is nothing else they can do,” said Mtshali.
With no connection to the grid, Mtshali said he relied on portable generators and had gone through four since arriving at the camp.
“That was my source of electricity. Day and night it would be on especially to keep my fridges in my tuckshop cold,” he said.
EThekwini mayor James Nxumalo has made a number of calls for the large number of transit camps around the city to be eradicated.
He said the city had started work on preparing alternative land for the Isipingo transit camp’s 750 families.
However, Sbu Zikode, chairman of shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo, was not impressed and said the council does not have a plan for the residents of Isipingo.
“All the mayor does is speak with no action. When the rain comes, peoples houses will end up being washed away,” he said this week.
“Instead of facing genuine demands from the people, they are undermining people by giving them blankets and food,” said Zikode.
“Yes, people are poor but Abahlali rejects the notion of breyani and inyama politics. People know the truth and cannot be fooled by food,” he said.
Zikode was referring to a visit by Nxumalo to the Kennedy Road informal settlement at the weekend to deliver a truck full of meat.
Residents blockaded the road and burnt refuse that had not been collected.
EThekwini spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said the municipality was committed to doing away with the Isipingo transit camp, but stressed that the new Cornubia housing development was not the solution.
“With over 10 000 people in transit camps around the city, Cornubia only has 486 units ready for allocating, with phase two due to begin,” he said.
He said the municipality would no longer build transit camps to house people moved because of infrastructure upgrades or disasters.