These Inanda families have to walk to a primary school to use the toilet

Victims of 2022 floods are still living in a “transit camp”

By Tsoanelo Sefoloko

10 June 2024

Mabhuyi Buthelezi, 65, battles to carry buckets of water from trucks to her home in eThekwini municipality’s Congo transit camp. Photos: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

About 250 people are still living in the Congo transit camp in Inanda, eThekwini, two years after floods destroyed their homes. They have no running water, no working toilets, and only illegal electricity connections.

The families, from Nhlungwane, were moved after the April 2022 floods. First, they were sheltered in the community hall, but for two years they have been living in the transit camp, about 47 kilometres from Durban city centre. The camp is built from rhino boards, which are now bent and broken. There is only one water tank which has been empty for some time; and the showers and flush toilets in the ablution block are not working.

Two rooms burned down when residents used candles and other residents had to break the rhino boards to save those inside.

According to community leader Mhlonishwa Luthuli, there are up to 250 people in the camp, including children. He says things were much better in the community hall, where there was water and electricity.

The water tanker used to come twice a week, says Luthuli, to fill the tank which fed the showers and toilets in the ablution block. But the tanker started coming less frequently; the sewerage system got blocked up; the toilets overflowed, and after repeated attempts to fix them, the community decided to lock the toilets.

Now residents who want to use toilets must walk to nearby Sekusile Primary School.

Wendy Mkhize from the school says Sekusile Primary also relies on water tanks, and when these are empty, residents from the transit camps have to bring a bucket of water to flush the school toilets.

Luthuli, whose family survives on a child grant, said he had tried to keep the toilets in use, but it was impossible. “Now I am really tired because the municipality doesn’t want to make the effort to fix the ablution system.”

Thembisile Khanyile lives with her sister and their seven children in two rooms. “My sister used to live in her room before it was burned by the candles. That is when most people decided to accept that we need go for the option of the illegal electricity,” said Khanyile.

When the water tanker does come to Congo, it stops on the edge of the camp.

Mabhuyi Buthelezi, 65, says she battles to walk fast enough with her buckets to get to the water truck 300 metres away. She has to fill two buckets so that she can store water to use at the school toilets.

Gugu Sisilana, spokesperson for the eThekwini municipality, said the City had successfully relocated residents from 29 transit camps into various housing projects, leaving 42 transit camps still to be cleared.

To date, a total of 3,676 families had been relocated. “The plan is to complete the relocation of the remaining transit camps by the end of 2026, but this deadline could be extended due to unavailability of suitable land,” she said.

“The reality is that suitable alternative land is scarce and funding for new houses is severely constrained, limiting construction and allocation of homes,” said Sisilana.

She did not answer our questions about water and toilets.