Khayelitsha residents install their own communal taps

2 days 4 hours ago
City of Cape Town says connections are illegal but it will see if it can assist with services

By Vincent Lali

Photo of people with rolls of piping
Residents of Siyahlala informal settlement in Khayelitsha prepare to install their own water taps. Photos: Vincent Lali

Residents of Siyahlala informal settlement, Khayelitsha, have started to install their own water pipes.

“We can’t ask the City of Cape Town to give us water taps while it sends law enforcement officials to destroy our shacks,” says community leader Noxolo Sam. “We have to use our own initiative.”

Sam said a community meeting in May resolved to collect the money for the project.

“When a fire breaks out residents must have water to extinguish it. And children must have water to bathe before they go to school,” said Sam.

She said residents in the nearby Phase 3 neighbourhood didn’t like shack dwellers collecting water from their taps. “The residents hate us and say we stay on a land that is earmarked for their RDP houses,” said Sam.

Newcomers to Siyahlala pay R400, while other residents contribute R100 towards the purchase of water pipes and taps. Community leaders manage the project and keep the money.

Siyahlala residents dig trenches to bury water pipes for the informal settlement.

“At weekends we shout over a loudhailer and call residents to a meeting where we show them things we have bought and tell them where we will install pipes and taps,” explained Sam.

Residents dig up trenches in their own areas and install the pipes and taps themselves on weekends when everybody is home. The water pipes are linked to the water pipes at the Phase 3 toilets. About eight taps have already been installed.

Sam said residents planned to also build a community hall and to buy toilets.

“Now we are installing our own water pipes so that we don’t have to beg house owners for water to drink, bathe and cook,” said Mzibongile Mqungquthu, who was helping dig a trench for the pipe.

Sisipho Ndongeni said that when fetching water at the toilets at Phase 3 in Green Point “we get into trouble sometimes with the skollies”.

“I normally store large quantities of water in big buckets inside my shack. But now I won’t have to keep such amounts in my shack as I will get fresh water from a tap close by,” she said.

Resident Olwethu Nkenye said, “The project will change our lives for the better. Now I will be able to do laundry without collecting water several times from far-off water taps.”

Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services Councillor Xanthea Limberg said that the City will send a team to the area to see if it can assist. She said, though, that the connections were being made without the official approval and are therefore illegal.

A resident draws water from one of the taps the community has installed.


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RDP houses unfit for people with disabilities

3 days 5 hours ago
People with disabilities are prioritised for RDP houses but their homes are often not adjusted for them despite mounds of legislation

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

Photo of a man in a wheelchair
Zingisani Mhlahlela says it is “hell” living in an RDP house and being in a wheelchair. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Living in an RDP house and being disabled is “hell”, complains Zingisani Mhlahlela. He is 30 years old and uses a wheelchair. He lives with his mother in an RDP area of Chris Hani in KwaNobuhle township, Uitenhage.

His RDP house is not adapted for his wheelchair and he struggles to get in and out of his home and also to use the toilet. “When nature calls, the wheelchair itself gets damaged,” he says.

Mthubanzi Mniki, spokesperson for Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, said, “The priority of housing delivery is to give houses first to disabled and elderly [people]. The houses must be suitable for their needs, accessible and closer to amenities … Due to the pressure of the backlog, people end up occupying houses that are not that suitable to their needs.”

Lwandile Sicwetsha, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Health, said the municipality should implement the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (approved by cabinet on 9 December 2015), the Disability Framework for Local Government, the Integrated National Disability Strategy, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“Those are the policies they should refer their heads of department to look at when they are to deliver any services,” said Sicwetsha.

Provincial Human Settlements spokesperson Phiwokuhle Soga said, “The Housing Code has provision for variation of the subsidy to allow for the enhancement to the house in order to accommodate specific disabilities, eg a ramp, rails etc.”

But Mhlahlela, who is now in his third year as a marketing student at Eastcape Midlands College, says, “The policies regarding persons in the disability sector are stated in papers, but practically, we are completely excluded.”

He says he has yet to see an RDP house adapted for disability in his area. He knows of only one house, for a blind woman in Chetty, Port Elizabeth. It has a rail which guides her from the gate up to the front door.

“Thumbs up to that! But in my own township, I haven’t seen such a house although there are many blind people living in RDPs.”

“The government also is supposed to install a bell which rings simultaneously with a blue light in deaf people’s RDP homes. The blue light shows that someone is knocking. The specification is there, but the builders just build houses anyway because the government does not give the builders the specifications,” he said.

Temba Mzantsi, the secretary of Persons with Disabilities Forum in Nelson Mandela Bay, said, “Some disabled people, including the blind, have applied for their houses more than five years ago. Up until now, they’re living in rented, inadequate houses.”

Mazantsi said the slogan of the disabled is nothing about us without us, “but they build RDPs for us without involving us”.

“We do specify on application forms we fill in and include the doctors medical report … However none of us in the disability sector gets a house that meets our needs from scratch. There are no rails and no ramps in RDP homes being built … Instead, they build houses like everyone else but later change it to meet the standard required, if we put pressure on them … For instance, I can’t enter my own RDP without being lifted off the wheelchair first … Every door inside the house I must access by being lifted first.”

He said some people paid for ramps and rails out of their own pockets.


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Court orders end to mud schools

3 days 5 hours ago
Equal Education scores major victory in Bhisho

By Chris Gilili

Photo of dilapidated mud school
Following a judgment in the Bhisho High Court on Thursday, schools like this one will have to be fixed. Supplied archive photo

The Bhisho High Court has found parts of the government’s norms and standards regulations for schools to be unconstitutional. The court has ordered that classrooms substantially built from mud as well as asbestos, wood or metal, be replaced with buildings that meet the National Building Regulations.

Judge Bantubonke Tokota read the judgment — written by Acting Judge Nomawabo Msizi — in court on Thursday morning. The case was brought by social movement Equal Education against Minister of Education Angie Motshekga. It was heard in March. The court also awarded costs to Equal Education.

The court order says that where the Regulations Relating to Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure 2013 refer to “schools built entirely out of” mud, wood, asbestos or zinc, the wording must be replaced with “classrooms built entirely or substantially out of” these materials.

The court also found that the regulations compel government to provide water, power and sanitation in schools. Plans and reports on progress towards schools meeting norms and standards must also be made available to the public, the court found.

Much of the Education Department’s argument was based on a clause in the regulations that place responsibility for school repairs on other state or parastatal entities (e.g. Eskom for electricity). But the court found that this “escape” clause — as Equal Education has called it — was unlawful and invalid.

The court also found that plans for upgrading schools that were in place before the norms and standards regulations were published have to be made consistent with the regulations. The court also found that schools with no access to water, electricity and sanitation have to be prioritised.

The regulations committed to a three-year period for schools to meet norms and standards, but since they were published in 2013 this period has long since passed. It is unclear what time frame the state now has to implement the norms and standards.

Two representatives of Equal Education were at court. Provincial leader Luzuko Sidimba told GroundUp that the judgment was a big victory for the organisation and those who had stood by it throughout the campaign.

Equal Education subsequently published a statement saying, “Victories such as this validate the necessity of organising young people to demand rights that would otherwise not be freely afforded to them. Armed with an improved infrastructure law, Equal Education will continue to keep a very close eye on the [Education departments].”

Spokesperson for the Department of Education, Elijah Mhlanga, was also in court. He said that the department welcomed the judgment. “We have made mistakes in our regulations, so the judgment will help us resolve them,” he said.


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Hiring of “teagirl” sparks protest in Uitenhage

4 days 1 hour ago
Anger over employment procedure at sewer project

By Thamsanqa Mbovane

Photo of tyres burning outside an office building
Tyres were burnt in front of the door to the office of ANC Uitenhage Councillor Siphiwo Plaatjies. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Protests erupted on Tuesday after a “teagirl” was employed at a sewer pipe installation project in Gunguluza, Uitenhage.

Angry residents arrived at the construction site where Power Construction is busy with a R29-million tender project for a sewer. “We want you out now!” people shouted at the “teagirl”. Another resident shouted at the woman: “Your employment is illegal. You are fired!”

“I just wish I can get out of this site once and for all to avoid this drama,” the woman told GroundUp while management tried to negotiate with the angry protesters. The woman asked for her name not to be used.

When residents dragged out a mattress, the woman shouted, “No! Don’t burn things in my name, please … I will get out of the site peacefully.”

She was then escorted out through a back gate by her boss, Wayne Haggard.

Residents said the woman was employed last Friday without proper community consultation. They said she was employed on the orders of Councillor Siphiwo Plaatjies (ANC) and not through voting district committees, which is the norm in the area.

The protesters went to the councillor’s office. They burnt tyres at the door of the office, sang songs and blew whistles. A meeting between the councillor’s office and officials of SASSA had to be abandoned.

Protest leader Martin Mathews said, “We heard that the teagirl had been phoned by a man at the councillor’s office who gave her the job … Her employment was invalid.”

Plaatjies said, “I have always distanced myself from recruitment processes in my ward projects.”

Haggard said people were employed by the company through the community liaison officer, Babalwa Dyalivane, informing the office of the councillor when positions opened.


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Community installs its own toilets after crowdfunded campaign

4 days 1 hour ago
Construction of flushing toilets has begun, but the unresponsive Ekurhuleni municipality may spoil the project

By Zoë Postman

Photo of toilets being built
Construction of nine flushing toilets begins in Mzondi informal settlement, Johannesburg. Photo: Zoë Postman

After living for years with one toilet for every hundred people, the community of Mzondi informal settlement raised R67,000 in a crowdfunded campaign in March to build toilets. Construction of nine flushing toilets has now started in the settlement in Ivory Park, East of Johannesburg.

The ThundaFund campaign was set up for the community with the help of Grassroots, a community mobilising project. Katlego Mohlabane of Grassroots, said the project was initially supposed to build 30 pit toilets, but after consultation, residents agreed that they would rather have flushing toilets. “It also meant that we needed to hire a construction company,” says Mohlabane.

Community leader Lesley Mashao said the project is not without its challenges. They are struggling to get access to an underground sewer pipe, which is beneath the backyards of a neighbouring community.

He said some community leaders, together with Grassroots, had approached the Ekurhuleni Municipality for assistance but to no avail.

“This is the only thing that will delay our project … We tried speaking to them [the municipality] at imbizos. We tried sending messages and emails, but they keep promising to come, but they never show up,” said Mashao. “It will cause a fight if we go to the neighbours and ask to break down their wall … It has to come from the municipality, but they don’t want to recognise us.”

In March, the municipality told GroundUp it had a court order to demolish the shacks.

Thandekile Mahintsho moved to Mzondi in January. She is looking forward to the new toilets. She lives in a shack with her husband. Her children still stay with her mother because she worries about sanitation in the informal settlement.

“Every day we worry about children falling in those pit toilets, but now we don’t have to worry anymore,” said Mahintsho.

Another community member, Busisiwe Radebe, said flushing toilets would assist in getting rid of the foul smell that came from the pit latrines. “We are so grateful because we can finally live like human beings,” she said.

Mohlabane said the project was a first for Grassroots. “One thing we would have done differently is getting the quotes before setting up the ThundaFund, so that we had an accurate representation of how much is needed to fund the project,” he said.

Mohlabane said the project was set to take two weeks but the lack of response from the municipality about the sewer pipe may delay things.

Ekurhuleni Municipality had not responded to GroundUp’s questions at the time of publication.


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It is not easy keeping cows in the township

6 days 4 hours ago
Kwathema resident hopes to have land for his cattle one day

By Kimberly Mutandiro

Photo of two people and cows
Vusi Mtwayi and his wife, Thelma, keep 20 cows at the back of their shack in Ekhuthuleni informal settlement in Kwathema. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

“I need a bigger piece of land,” says Vusi Mtwayi. “l hope to become a big cattle farmer one day, but that will not happen as long as I’m living in the township.”

Mtwayi and his wife, Thelma, keep 20 cows at the back of their shack in Ekhuthuleni informal settlement in Kwathema. Ten of the cows belong to a friend of Mtwayi who lives in a shack nearby.

Mtwayi hopes to be allocated a plot by the government one day where he can keep his cattle and other animals.

They have had the cattle for five years. There are reports of stock theft in Kwathema and Mtwayi prefers to keep his herd in his yard. At night he wakes up several times to check on them.

Every day just before 8am Mtwayi leads the cattle out of the kraal passing Kwathema men’s hostel, across Hadebe Street to Vlakfontein Road where there is open land and 10 kraals belonging to about 30 cattle owners who live in the area. Between them they have hundreds of cattle.

“There is no grass around our area,” says Mtwayi. The community burns the grass in cleanup projects, forcing the headsman to move further afield. “Our herdsmen have to go as far as Springs so the cattle can feed,” he says.

Mtwayi and his friend contribute R500 a month to pay a herdsman. “Young men, jobless, come and offer to herd the cattle. We give them what we can,” says Mtwayi.

Mtwayi grew up in Sterkspruit in Eastern Cape, where his family used to farm. Thelma grew up on a farm in Kimberley. At first they kept goats. Later they traded 15 goats for three cows. The herd increased to ten.

They sell milk in two-litre bottles for R20. People also come to buy manure for their gardens. Mtwayi estimates his cattle are worth R10,000 to R14,000. Thelma does not currently have a job and Mtwayi collects a disability grant.

Building their shack on a large piece of land at a corner of the informal settlement enabled Mtwayi and Thelma to create enough space for two kraals. In one kraal is a chicken run and calves. The second kraal is for the bigger cattle.

Not everyone is happy with their farming efforts however. People in the informal settlement tell him to take his cattle to the rural areas. Others complain the cows disturb their sleep with their mooing. Some people have threatened to have the cattle removed because it is not a farming area.

“It is not easy to keep cattle in the township. People are jealous because they think we have lots of money. They don’t know how difficult it is,” says Mtwayi.

Mtwayi says he plans to go to Pretoria one day and apply to government for a farm or a plot. In the meantime, he perseveres, keeping his cattle next to his shack.

Vusi Mtwayi herding cattle across Hadebe Street. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro


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In photos: Hermanus protests

6 days 4 hours ago
Community want charges dropped against arrested leader

By Ashraf Hendricks

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Photo of protesters running from a Nyala in Zwelihle in Hermanus.
Protesters run from a Nyala in Mandela Street, Zwelihle, Hermanus. Photos: Ashraf Hendricks

Protests which started last Wednesday continued in Hermanus on the weekend. On Tuesday community members from Zwelihle had marched to the Hermanus police station with a petition demanding that charges be dropped against Gcobani Ndzongana, one of their community leaders. On Wednesday, Ndzongana was arrested. Violent protests followed.

On Friday afternoon, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille tried to open a dialogue with protesters but stones were thrown and she was forced to leave. A number of streets were blocked with rubble and burning tyres in Zwelihle and Mount Pleasant. Sections of the Walker Bay recycling plant and the public pool complex were burnt.

Law enforcement used teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets throughout the day to disperse protesters. The demonstrators used wooden panels and congregated iron sheets as shields. From a nearby hill, protesters hurled rocks, shot marbles with catapults, and hit golf balls with golf clubs at the police. One protester had made a bow and arrow.

A video posted by TimesLive shows a police officer being robbed of his gun.

Protesters refused to speak to the media.

Protesters ran as police fired rubber bullets.

Protesters gathered on a hill in Mount Pleasant. When protesters inched closer, police would disperse them with rubber bullets and the cycle would start again.

A section of the Walker Bay recycling plant was burnt.

A police offer preventing protesters from moving back up the hill after police took control of it. Later, protesters took the hill again.

Protesters gathered in Zwelihle. A Nyala and tear gas was used to disperse the protesters, but they regrouped.

Children built a makeshift fortress to watch the protests.

Children show GroundUp the empty ammunition casings they collected.

Protesters pelt a Nyala with stones.

Mbeki Street in Hermanus was blocked by protesters on Friday.


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