Families stuck in transit camp as eThekwini housing project remains incomplete

They were relocated in 2019 to make way for the housing project. But their living conditions have deteriorated since then

By Tsoanelo Sefoloko

16 February 2024

People living in a transit camp in Umbhayi marched this week, accusing the eThekwini municipality of neglecting them. Their move to the transit camp in 2019 was meant to be temporary. Photo supplied by Philani Biyela

More than 100 people living in a transit camp in Umbhayi marched through the streets of Tongaat, north of Durban, on Wednesday accusing the eThekwini municipality of neglecting them.

Many of the marchers say they were moved to the transit camp by the municipality in 2019 as a temporary measure to make way for the construction of a RDP housing project. But the project halted during lockdown and had further delays recently when a second contractor appointed to complete the RDP houses, abandoned the project.

Four years later, residents are complaining that their living conditions are only getting worse, with leaking roofs, overcrowding, no proper electricity or water supply.

The group demanded to hand over their list of demands to the mayor whom they thought was at the Sizakala centre. When they discovered he was not there, some people threw stones at the centre, breaking windows. The police then fired a stun grenade to disperse the group.

The residents then decided to send a few leaders to the City Hall about 46 kilometres away.

Community leader Phiani Biyela said most households have resorted to using izinyokanyoka (illegal electrification) because they did not have electricity at the transit camp.

“The community members have had meetings to find ways to resolve the challenges we are facing and to get answers from the Ward 61 councillor,” said Biyela.

Xoliswa Ndabeni said she has been staying in Umbhayi since 2010 after she was told that she would get a proper house. “We are forced to walk about 500 metres to get water. Most of us are working. We come home very tired and still have to fetch water far away,” she said.

Ward 61 councillor Dolly Munien (DA) acknowledged the transit camp’s problems, which included that some of the communal toilets were broken.

Munien said a new contractor was introduced to the community in September. “The contractor is fixing the 18 vandalised RDP houses that were almost finished when the first contractor decided to stop the construction. We are going to give it to the rightful beneficiaries.”

According to Munien, about 250 houses are to be built in Tongaat, but not everyone at the transit camp qualified to benefit from. Most of the houses remain incomplete.

Municipality spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said they would deal with the marcher’s complaints and respond to them once they received the memo.