Category Archives: backyarders

The Times: Scandal of the low-cost housing settlements

Scandal of the low-cost housing settlements
Overcrowding leads to pollution and disease
Mar 26, 2011 11:42 PM | By BOBBY JORDAN

She is one of millions of South Africans who must use polluted water because of overcrowding.

These conditions are turning government’s low-cost housing settlements into death-traps, according to shock findings in a study by the University of Stellenbosch.

The research reveals that overcrowding in state-subsidised housing projects is leading to water pollution and serious health risks to residents.

The findings conclude that the government’s housing policy may be doing more harm than good by placing too many people in too small a space.

The research report, published in international journal Habitat, says the problem stems from the unregulated growth of “back-yard shacks” which home owners erect to earn rent. The number of “back-yarders” has effectively doubled the population inside housing developments and the plumbing cannot cope.

Researchers analysed the water quality at four low-cost housing developments in and around Cape Town – Driftsand, Greenfields, Masiphumelele and Tafelsig.

The report highlighted a worrying build-up of human waste clogging up toilets and storm-water drains. Some of the more shocking findings include:

Only two state-subsidised homes did not have a back-yard dwelling (shack) attached on the property;

Less than half the toilets are still working;

Drains were dirty, with sewage-laden water spilling over in 92% of the houses;

40% of main households reported one or more cases of diarrhoea in the two weeks preceding the survey;

48% of households reported at least two structural problems with their houses such as cracks or water leaks; and,

99% said they were unable to afford repairs.

Ironically, residents inside the house are more at risk than tenants living outside as the inside tap area was most infected with harmful bacteria.

Researcher Jo Barnes said the results showed the state must urgently reconsider its housing guidelines.

“The government has inherited a very large problem, but, just plonking boxes on the ground and stuffing people into them is not the answer. We are causing massive water pollution,” Barnes said.

Barnes said government had “tied themselves in a knot” by failing to act against back-yard shacks as the state is obliged to find alternative accommodation for back-yard dwellers before evicting them.

She said research showed many homeowners did not understand basic hygiene or plumbing principles and did not have the means to repair blocked or broken drains. “According to them (the new home-owners), that toilet lever is like a delete button – it takes things away. Those who have toilets are using them to flush away dirty water with peels and things from the kitchen.”

Cape Town metropolitan council spokesman Kylie Hatton said housing development was restricted by budget and national housing guidelines.

Human Settlements director general Thabane Zulu said while municipalities were ultimately responsible for enforcing regulations relating to building standards and conditions, homeowners also needed to take responsibility for maintaining their homes. Zulu said: “It is not just water infrastructure, but the department is concerned with general maintenance of the homes. On Wednesday at a handover of a new social housing project in Cape Town one of the things the Minister emphasised was the responsibility the home owners have to their property, especially with regards to maintenance.”

The ‘Mandela Park 23′ to appear in Khayelitsha Magistrate’s court tomorrow at 9am

Update:The magistrate threw out all the charges against the Mandela Park 23.

Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Statement on behalf of the community of Mandela Park
Update: 23h00 on 20 September 2009

The ‘Mandela Park 23′ to appear in Khayelitsha Magistrate’s court tomorrow at 9am

What we know now:

*23 residents of Mandela Park were arrested by police today
*All 23 activists will appear in Khayelitsha Magistrates Court at 09h00 tomorrow morning (21 September).
*Residents will protest outside the court until their neighbours are freed
*The senior prosecutor and the commissioner of Harare Police Station refused to let any of the 23 residents out on police bail even though they all agreed there was no risk in doing so.

What happened:

This morning 23 Mandela Park activists were arrested on their way to speak at a local radio station after Helen Zille refused to address their anger at Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela for lying to residents (see previous press statement for details).

Police arrested residents and proceeded to fabricate a lengthly lie that all 23 residents were caught vandalising the empty government houses. We assume that police did this because they were pressured into arresting someone for yesterday’s civil disobedience protest. Since they couldn’t find the perpetrators, the just picked off the 23 activists who, walking in a group, were an easy target.

Pressure from protesting residents helps those arrested:

At about noon, almost 100 residents of Mandela Park converged on Harare Police Station to pressure them into throwing out the case. Residents were joined in solidarity by members of the Anti-Eviction Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo. Eventually, the pressure proved fruitful and activists were able to meet with Station Commissioner Tobias. During the first meeting, he was curt and somewhat rude to community leaders. However, after continued pressure and toyi-toying by residents, during the second and third meetings Tobias was more friendly and placed the blame on the Senior Prosecutor Mr Isaacs who, he said, denied them bail that day and required that they be in court the next day at 9am.

It is clear that the mass protest outside Harare Police Station helped make sure that residents were not stuck in jail until Tuesday or even Wednesday. In a change of tack, Commissioner Tobias mentioned how he “feels for residents of Mandela Park who live in a hokkie [shack] and see nice houses being built right in front of them only to see those houses go to someone else”. He said of the 23 activists: “these people is not criminals who stay in there” and that he wants them out so that he can focus on the real criminals.

Despite such corroborative language, Tobias continued to blame the Senior Prosecutor for refusing to let out the 23 protesters. When residents again complained about the serious health issues of some of those arrested and the fact that some of the women had 3-6 month old children, Tobias again said he’d love to let all of them out but that the Prosecutor would not allow him to do so.

A short history of Mandela Park protests:

Even though we are merely fighting for our right to housing that has already been promised to us, we are the ones criminalised again and again by the corrupt cops of Harare Police Station.

It began when we first rose up as a community in 2003 where many of our leaders were arrested, beaten and sent to Pollsmoor. In 2003, we also held mass rallies supporting our fellow residents who had been wrongfully arrested. For a full history, see this report written by Professor Martin Legassick.

Police abuse of Mandela Park residents has continued since then. Recently, just over a week ago, 53 residents were arrested in Mandela Park for protesting the new Khayelitsha Hospital. Says one resident: “there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in Khayelitsha but the people from the community are not getting employed” by this hospital.

Again, today, Mandela Park residents have been arrested on false charges. But when will corrupt cops be brought to the book for their lies? Why do the poorest of the poor always get arrested when they protest injustice while the people committing the actual crimes against us go free?

As a community, we will appear en-mass tomorrow at 9am outside Khayelitsh Magistrates Court to protest the wrongful arrest of our neighbours.

For more information, contact Mabhuti at 082-997-8475 or Sluja 071-433-1101
You can also try Loyiso who is among the 23 residents arrested at 083-270-2000 or 073-766-2078

SAPA: Backyard dwellings growing – SAIRR

November 25 2008 at 09:47AM
Source: SAPA

More and more informal dwellings are being built as backyard properties and not in informal settlements, the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) said on Tuesday.

According to a SAIRR report, between 1996 and 2007, the total number of households residing in informal dwellings grew by 24,2 percent from 1,45 million to 1,80 million.

During that period, the number of households living in backyard informal dwellings rose by 46 percent from 403 000 to 590 000.

The number of households living in free-standing informal dwellings grew by 16 percent in comparison, from just over one million to 1,2 million.

At the same time, backyard informal structures as a proportion of total informal dwellings grew by 18 percent while those built in informal settlements declined by seven percent.

The ratio of informal dwellings built on bare land (which might be privately owned or belong to the state) to those built in backyards declined from 1:2,7 in 1996 to 1:2 in 2007.

The institute identified a few reasons for the changing pattern in the erection of informal dwellings.

The first explanation had to do with the safety concerns of residents of these dwellings.

“Informal settlements built in backyard properties are less vulnerable to vandals and shack fires that are so prevalent in informal settlements,” said SAIRR researcher Kerwin Lebone.

“Also, a person urgently looking for rental accommodation would encounter fewer obstacles when building a shack on private property than would be the case when they approached the department of housing, where they were likely to be subjected to a long waiting list.”

In 2007, the banking sector established that low-cost housing was delivered at a slow pace owing to delays by local authorities in providing and proclaiming suitable land, installing infrastructure, and establishing services.

The institute said the fact that more Africans owned formal housing in 2007 meant they could lease out portions of their stands to tenants who wanted to build informal structures.

The advantages for prospective tenants included access to the landlord’s water and sanitation infrastructure.

Potential problems could arise when the small scale landlords wished to supply electricity to their tenants.

This might entail a breach of the law through illegal connections and added pressure on the country’s ailing electricity grid.

The institute said the department’s policy of eradicating “all slums, or informal settlements, by 2014″ might also have played a role in the displacement of informal-dwelling-erection patterns.

“Shack dwellers might assume that erecting a structure in a backyard property renders them immune to the evictions that are characteristic of most informal settlements deemed by government to have been established illegally,” Lebone said. – Sapa