Category Archives: VIVIAN MOOKI

City Press: ‘No human should live like this’


http://www.news24.com/City_Press/Gauteng/0,,186-2295_2392934,00.html

City Press
13/09/2008 16:09 – (SA)
‘No human should live like this’

Tired of empty promises and crumbling shacks, residents take to the streets in protest yet again. VIVIAN MOOKI visits Orange Farm and gets stuck in a muddy puddle among the dusty streets.

DEBRIS, rocks and electricity pylons blockade the dusty streets of Drieziek in Orange Farm amid a heavy dark cloud of smoke from burning tyres.

A police armoured car zooms past the informal settlement, leaving cursing children who bunked school for the service delivery protests in a cloud of dust.

The sight of armed police officers discourages them from throwing stones at the vehicle and they watch helplessly as it snakes through the rusty corrugated-iron shacks settlements. After all, these are the same men who had just fired rubber bullets, injuring several and arresting residents.

At the top of the hill, armed metro police keep guard, patrolling the busy Golden Highway.

While this seems to have calmed the hostile situation, it is evident that nothing but the delivery of promised RDP houses and proper sanitation will appease protesters.

“It’s been 14 years of no service delivery and had we not connected pipes to the existing water pipes below the surface we wouldn’t even have water today,” says Mantsa Sephumula.

A few metres from her shack, a mother runs across her tiny yard to stop her three-year-old son from wandering off to a pit toilet, a safety hazard that could see the kid trapped in a decaying corrugated iron and plastic latrine that could cave in.

Where there is supposed to be a seat, there is a gaping hole attached to an unstable wooden frame.

“This toilet can cave in at any time. We can’t even use our neighbour’s toilet because it’s also in a terrible state,” she says.

Nearby, Sweetness Ndungane is hard at work mopping water that keeps seeping through the ground from a corner of her shack.

“As you can see my whole yard is literally a puddle of water. Each morning I have to mop water that keeps oozing from this corner of the shack and it gets horrible in winter. We are forced to sleep in these humid conditions,” she says.

Residents suspect that the wet, mucky yards are a result of leaking water pipes which could have been damaged when residents illegally connected pipes to get water.

They are also aggrieved by the pit toilets, which they have been using since the early 90s.

“Just visit this area in the rainy season and you’ll understand how we feel. Most toilets are overflowing and this is not good for the children,” said Fikile Mbatha.

She says the roads are also horrible. “No human being should live like this. People die because ambulances cannot reach them and just the other day one family had to carry their relative’s coffin all the way to the main road as the hearse could not make it through to their street,” Mbatha says.

Driving through the area, this becomes visible as I soon get stuck in a muddy puddle I thought I’d easily manage to drive through.

“My brother was stabbed a few months back and as we carried him to the main road where the ambulance was waiting, we all thought he was going to die. Emergency services people refuse to drive here and it is understandable,” Andre Phadi says.

He soon joins a group of school boys in helping to remove the stuck vehicle from the muddy road.

“When people visit us they have to leave their cars far from our yard because this street is just a no-go area,” he says.

Similar protests broke from as far back as 1999, but residents say government always gives them “empty promises”.

“They’ll tell us something just to sway us from protesting. In March this year, we had a meeting where we stated our intention to protest but they said we would start seeing changes around August. It is now September,” Mbatha says.

Gauteng housing spokesperson Aviva Manqa says they have urged the City of Johannesburg to speed up the approval of infrastructure designs for Drieziek Extention 4.

This emerged during a meeting between the department, the city and residents’ representatives held in the area after Monday’s protests.

“During the meeting the department explained that it had submitted designs for infrastructure installation such as sewer and water pipes to the City of Johannesburg for approval,” says Manqa. “Once these have been approved, a service provider will then be appointed to start working next month.”

The meeting also resolved that the city’s urban management department and the Johannesburg Roads Agency would send officials to look into roads and other concerns raised by the community.