Hope turns to despair in long wait for RDP houses

The biggest concern for residents is the limited ablution facilities for the burgeoning population

25 October 2023 - 22:01 By Lwazi Hlangu
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DA Kwazulu-Natal leader Francois Rodgers visits the KwaMathe transit camp in Lamontville, Durban, on Tuesday.
DA Kwazulu-Natal leader Francois Rodgers visits the KwaMathe transit camp in Lamontville, Durban, on Tuesday.
Image: Lwazi Hlangu

A mother having to carry her disabled son on her back to the clinic is just one of the many issues facing the residents of the now 14-year-old KwaMathe Transit Camp. 

Situated in Lamontville, west of Durban, the camp was built to temporarily accommodate hundreds of people from the Chris Hani informal settlements, while the eThekwini municipality commences with the government-subsidised RDP housing project for them. 

“We were told that we would be housed here temporarily until they build our houses, but that hasn’t happened as we’ve been here for the past 14 years,” said resident and community leader, Lungile Ndlela. 

Ndlela said the optimism they moved in with has turned to despair as the living conditions worsen.

She said the population in the camp has swollen significantly over the years with people joining them and residents having babies.

One of the new parents at the camp is Lethile Madlala, 23, who gave birth to a daughter four years ago.

Madlala’s child was born with feet and spinal cord defects that cause numbness on her feet.

“She has a clubfoot and spina bifida (split spine) which causes the paralysis to her legs. She doesn’t have nerves on her foot, she can’t feel anything when she steps or you pinch her foot, but she can walk using her walking frame and plaster casts,” said Madlala.

She said the camp is not a conducive place to raise a disabled baby.

“There are no yards so she can’t stretch or try to play which would help train her body, and other places are rocky so he can’t play there as well. There is no space for much movement in our house also because we live in a two-room house and there’s nowhere to walk around. The only chance she gets to walk is at school, but that’s only when it’s not raining,” said Madlala.

However, even going to school, the hospital presents a whole new challenge for Madlala and the residents.

The poor state of the roads has resulted in taxis refusing to go near the camp for fear of tyre damage.

This has resulted in Madlala having to carry her daughter on her back and climb the kilometre-long hill to find taxis so she can take her for regular medical check-ups.

“We have missed numerous hospital appointments and school days, especially if there had been rains because I have to carry him and also carry his walking frame on the other side. He uses leg plaster casts that I have to find a way to bring along as well,” said Madlala.

The camps comprise mainly one-bedroom units built with corrugated iron. Some families have managed to own two-bedrooms units.

Ndlela, who lives with her husband and four children in her single-bedroom unit, said lack of service delivery has resulted in the camp being a health hazard for children. 

“The situation we live under is not right. We don’t like this place any more. Children get flu because of the floating sewer and the damp place caused by the leaking water from pipes. Others swim in these little ponds that have developed on the road as a result. No-one takes us serious when we report, they don’t care about us.” 

The biggest concern for the residents is around the limited ablution facilities for the population estimated at about 3,000.

Each ablution block has two showers and three toilets, which are usually shared by about 150 people. Residents said men, women and children all used the same facilities.

Nzuzo Cele, a resident, said that posed a safety risk for women and children. 

“We have to take turns to bath because the condition of the showers is not right. There is also the possibility of children getting raped because we share the same facilities as men with women and children and there are people who come in drunk and may need a toilet while a girl is bathing in the shower,” he said.

Cele alleged the job for cleaning the toilets and showers was given to politically connected people who do not even live in the transit camp and seldom came to clean. 

On Tuesday, DA KwaZulu-Natal leader Francois Rodgers led a delegation from his party on a follow-up oversight visit.

In February last year, Rodgers spent two days at the camp to understand how people lived there.

Rodgers said the conditions have become worse and the interventions that were promised by previous human settlements MEC Jomo Sibiya have not materialised.

“The conditions that people live in here are absolutely unacceptable, particularly the sharing of ablution facilities by men, women and children. We have handicapped people who have absolutely no access for in and out of this area. If there’s an emergency, an ambulance can’t get here. We will take both these issues to the commission,” said Rodgers.

Rodgers said he would take up the issue with the South African Human Rights Commission and invite current human settlements MEC Sipho Nkosi to visit the area.

However, eThekwini Ward 74 councillor Nolubabalo Zondi told TimesLIVE Premium council had reallocated the majority of the people they moved to the transit camps to their allocated houses.

“Our biggest challenge with that area is that most of the people there are invaders or renting those places. We’ve relocated most of the people that we moved there. Only about 20% of the people there we know are still there. You will find out that 80% of those still there are invaders.” 

She said people from the nearby Chris Hani settlement were the first to be moved to the transit camp and most were moved back or moved to another area known as Kingsbury, upon the completion of their houses.

“So that’s how the project went: we would relocate them to transit camps while we build formal houses and reallocate them when we’re done.

“The problem was that they would leave behind children in the camps when they are moved to their new houses or others would invade and the number would not decrease, but according to the project, it’s going very well,” Zondi said. 

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