UN housing man visits shack settlement


Published on the web by Mercury on April 23, 2007.

Slipping down pathways between rickety shacks, Miloon Kolhari tried not to fall into the mud and the filth of the Foreman Road squatter camp in Durban at the weekend.

The United Nations special rapporteur got a first-hand look at the living conditions of the 7 000 people who call the squatter camp home. He visited the city as part of his global study on housing, a tour that has seen him meet national, provincial and municipal representatives across the country.

Kolhari seemed visibly moved by the plight of the Foreman Road residents and the 7 000 shack dwellers in nearby Kennedy Road.

The shack dwellers in Clare Estate are among 800 000 of Durban’s three million population who do not have formal housing.

Foreman Road, where all the residents share less than a dozen toilets, was littered with broken bottles and household refuse.

Many of its residents belong to the Abahlali baseMjondolo (isiZulu for “the residents of shacks”) movement, a group constantly at loggerheads with the eThekwini Council.

Kolhari listened to the testimony of Abahlali members, including its President, S’bu Zikode, who said shack dwellers wanted specifics on the city’s plans to build houses and to formalise existing shack settlements.

“We are tired of promises. We live in disease and filth. This and the threat of shack fires reduces our life expectancy,” said Zikode.

Kolhari told shack dwellers: “I am impressed that, despite your suffering, you have kept up your spirits. I will do everything I can to support your struggle for housing rights.”

Zikode said he was battling to get the city’s approval for the provincial departments of Health and Social Welfare to pay for the upgrading of the Kennedy Road Community Hall.


“It was built 15 years ago. From here we take care of 575 HIV-positive people, orphans and vulnerable children, and we really need to upgrade the hall. The creche looks after 35 children every day and we make sandwiches for the older children. Every month, we take food parcels to the 60 poorest families.

“I can’t rubbish the whole government. The departments of Health and Welfare send their social workers here every week to help us. They have given us R100 000 a year for three years to help people who are really suffering. Now they want to ugrade the community hall, but the council won’t give us permission to do this,” Zikode said.

Councillor for the area Yakoob Baig said that that politics had scuppered development plans for the Kennedy Road hall.