30/11/2017 08:39 SAST | Updated 01/12/2017 19:09 SAST

Living Like This A ‘Disaster’

Residents of informal settlements tell of hardships amid repeated broken housing promises

A bird's-eye view of Good Hope informal settlement in Ekurhuleni
Denvor de Wee/Visual Buzz SA
A bird's-eye view of Good Hope informal settlement in Ekurhuleni

Two communities may be on the brink of getting what they've sought for over 20 years. Track My Mayor* partnered with HuffPost SA to tell their story.

Zakhele Lushaba (58) of Good Hope in the heart of Germiston, Ekurhuleni, teaches the children in his crèche to have a positive attitude despite their circumstances.

But after 23 years in the informal settlement, with no sign of proper housing, Lushaba says he has lost hope.

Lushaba, his wife, mother and five children live in an outside building, which he built himself.

We are not treated like humans.

"All our ward councillors have promised us houses. Whenever their term is over, another councillor comes in and promises to deliver houses. They told us to go register for houses and we did exactly that. Nothing was delivered and that councillor's term ended. Then the next councillor came with the same story," he says.

He says the current ward councillor, Geoffrey Mthembu, promised that by September "there would be developments" on the housing front. This too did not happen.

Mthembu agreed to an interview with HuffPost SA, but subsequently cancelled and referred enquiries to the mayor's office.

"We are not treated like humans," Lushaba says of the circumstances in Good Hope.

Watch: Waiting for houses is as familiar to the residents of Good Hope as are leaking shack roofs and the sight of rats.

While the community has been provided with portable toilets and solar panels, it is houses that will make a difference to his life and that of the children in his crèche, Lushaba says.

"All we want is proper land. Give us water, toilets and our title deeds. I think our lives would change if we received better houses.

"There are a lot of problems here. If one shack burns down, we all suffer and burn."

Yonela Zoleka (24), a fellow resident of Good Hope, complains about the lack of electricity. "We cannot even buy groceries because we have no electricity, so the food rots."

Zoleka has also heard the promises of housing. "In June 2015 the councillor said the houses are coming; in 2016 June they said they are definitely coming. June 2017 passed and we are still without [anything]."

Denvor de Wee/Visual Buzz SA
A resident carries water in Good Hope

How long will Good Hope have to wait?

Progress report

A progress report on the housing development in Good Hope, dated July 2017, projected that services would be installed in the current financial year and that the construction of 800 flats (four storey walk-up units) would start in the financial year 2018/19 "subject to budget availability".

However, the timeline seems to have since moved forward as the mayor's office this week said that services are expected to be installed in 2018/19.

HuffPost SA understands that the proximity of Good Hope to a mine dump has been flagged as a concern. When asked to confirm whether this has caused a delay in the process, the mayor's office said: "The township is approved and proclamation is awaited. [Department of mineral resources] comments are being addressed by functional planning."

The mayor's office did not respond to a request to clarify what "functional planning" entailed.

Asked about Good Hope resident Zakhele Lushaba's claim that the ward councillor had promised that there would be "developments" by September, the mayor's office said a report with timelines was presented at a public meeting where the ward councillor was present.

'Subject to budget availability'

The progress report said construction would start in the financial year 2018/19 "subject to budget availability".

To what extent is the budget within the metro's control?

While metros identify housing needs in their jurisdiction, human settlements projects must be approved at provincial level, says department of human settlements head of communications Ndivhuwo Mabaya.

Provincial business plans are tabled at the national department so that funds can be released.

"A municipality might have a target of 100,000 houses per year, only to find that government can only afford 50% of the latter. That is a why I am saying it is a collective responsibility ..." says Mabaya. – Liesl Pretorius

Denvor de Wee/Visual Buzz SA
Without (individual) water supply in Good Hope, dirty dishes pile up

What is a ward councillor's role?

"Councillors are representatives of their constituents and their immediate needs. They have the responsibility that the decisions they take must address past imbalances and access to services and opportunities," says Tahir Sema, communications manager of the South African Local Government Association.

• The ward councillor is expected to make sure that the concerns related to his/her ward are represented in council.

• The ward councillor and ward committee are there to ensure that everyone can participate in local government.

If you are not satisfied with the performance of your ward councillor, you can complain to the ward committee, the municipality or relevant political party. – Nkosinathi Shazi

Denvor de Wee/Visual Buzz SA
A visibly distraught Johanna Thubakgale in her one-room house in Winnie Mandela Park

Living like this 'a disaster'

A single room is what Johanna Thubakgale calls home.

And in this room, she and 12 family members eat, bath and sleep -- five on the bed and the others on the floor.

The 58-year-old, of Winnie Mandela Park informal settlement in Ekurhuleni, describes living in these conditions as a "disaster".

In winter, when they have nothing to keep them warm, Thubakgale finds her circumstances even more difficult.

Residents of the area are beneficiaries of state-subsidised housing, but have not been able to take possession of their stands since 2004 as they have been occupied by other people.

As a result, the Ekurhuleni Concerned Residents' Association and individual subsidy beneficiaries took the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality to court to seek an order to compel the municipality to provide them with houses by the end of 2018.

All we want, is to move to our own private stand and not disturb anyone.

In court papers, the municipality argued that "the state has limited resources that unfortunately cannot meet the demands of millions of people that live in the unfortunate circumstances as the applicants".

Judgment is expected to be delivered on December 8, said Nomzamo Zondo, litigation director of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa.

Thubakgale believes the committee that allocated the stands are the ones to blame. And its members haven't returned to fix the crisis, she says.

"All we want, is to move to our own private stand and not disturb anyone. The family we are sharing with right now; we don't get along. We don't talk to each other. My life would change so much if my family got its own stand." – Nkosinathi Shazi

● The mayor's office told Liesl Pretorius that the double allocation of stands would be addressed through the implementation of mega housing projects in Tembisa. Mega housing projects are aimed at the delivery of a large number of houses through the collaboration of all spheres of government. "[These] projects are developed in well located land with good access to transport, work opportunities and social services."

The mayor's office failed to respond to a question on when this is expected to happen.

*Track My Mayor keeps track of political promises in the interest of increased accountability at local government level. Reporting for this story was supported by Code for Africa's impactAFRICA fund.