South Africa: ‘The Municipality Dumped Us Here Like Rubbish’ Says Gqeberha Woman

Many of Rolihlahla’s households were moved to the prefabricated bungalows by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality because of Covid

  • About 150 households living in prefabricated bungalows in Rolihlahla, Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape are demanding electricity, water and chemical toilets.
  • Many residents are elderly and disabled. They were moved to the temporary shelters to protect them from Covid in October 2021.
  • But households say they live in filthy conditions because they all share five dirty chemical toilets and one broken tap. Rubbish is seldom collected.
  • The municipality says it can’t do much until new contracts with contractors have been finalised.

About 150 households living in prefabricated bungalows in Rolihlahla, Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape are demanding electricity, water and chemical toilets.

The residents, most of whom are elderly and disabled, were moved to the temporary shelters to protect them from Covid in October 2021. Of the 150 households, about 75 were backyarders from nearby Rolihlahla informal settlement who had to make a way for the construction of RDP houses in the area.

The municipality says they will be prioritised for proper housing. In the meantime these vulnerable people live in filthy conditions.

Last week, the community protested by blocking Uitenhage Road to get the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to commit to a timeframe for when essential services will be installed. But the municipality claims it is unable to do anything until procurement processes have been finalised.

Currently, people living in the 150 bungalows share five chemical toilets which are very dirty and one broken standpipe. Most of them relieve themselves in buckets while children use the nearby open fields. Residents say their rubbish has also not been cleared in a while.

On Friday, Cavalle Pillay, 33, who is partially blind, was among the protesters. She was relocated to Rolihlahla from Bethelsdorp Extension 32 in January. Pillay said that when they moved into the bungalows, the City promised that they would have electricity immediately. But months later, this is still not the case.

“When we protested in August, our ward councillor called the municipality in front of us but the officials there blamed their supply chain department. They asked us to go back home and promised that by September we will get electricity when the Council approves the budget. But until now nothing has happened,” she said.

Pillay said that without power, the area was very dark at night and not safe. She said her home and at least 20 others have since decided to make izinyoka (illegal electricity) connections from a neighbouring RDP house. They pay about R250 per month to the homeowner.

Mongezi Naki, 66, moved there in May from New Brighton after being promised a bungalow with electricity, water and toilets. “They [the municipality] said this was a temporary arrangement because they will build me a brick house. But since I have been here, there is no development taking place.

“These bungalows are cold and are falling apart on windy days. On wet days they leak. Our living conditions are disgusting. I poo and pee in a bucket and have to wait until the morning to throw it out,” he said.

Nontuthuzelo Moss, 59, who moved from Booysens Park said, “The municipality dumped us here like rubbish. We share five filthy toilets and one broken standpipe. We are old, poor and disabled. But this municipality treats us like pigs because our place stinks like a pigsty.”

She said most residents survive on social grants and piecemeal jobs. “In a day I use 2 litres of paraffin for cooking and boiling bath water. Per litre is R25. We cook on open fires outside but that is also dangerous because these bungalows can easily catch alight,” Moss said.

Municipal spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said that as an interim measure, more chemical toilets will be provided “by the earliest available contract”. She did not say when this would happen.

On the provision of electricity, Ndamase said the municipality had not yet appointed a contractor as it was “following supply chain processes”.

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