300 homes share eight pit toilets

Shackdwellers in Polar Park and Tyampolo, East London, are not even on housing waiting lists

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Photo of a toilet
Nolwando Jali shares this pit toilet with 17 people in Polar Park Informal Settlement. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

For the past 26 years, residents of Polar Park and Tyampolo informal settlements near Dice in East London have been sharing pit latrines or relieving themselves in the surrounding bush.

Tyampolo has about 450 shacks. Polar Park has 300 shacks.

“The municipality does not want to build us proper toilets, but also there are no talks of moving us to RDP houses … There’s no housing project for us and we are not registered for houses,” said community leader Nolwando Jali.

She said Polar Park informal settlement has been around for 20 years. “It’s like we are forgotten here, only being remembered during election time,” said Jali.

Her elder son helped her to dig and built a pit latrine. She shares the toilet with 17 residents.

GroundUp counted eight pit latrines for the 300 shacks. Jali said some of the residents used the bushes.

The settlement has no electricity supply, no proper streets, and no street or area lighting. Some residents rely on illegal electricity connections.

In Tyampola informal settlement things are no better. Community leader Thokozile Matisi said she had been living in the area for more than 15 years.

“It’s like there’s no housing project for us, so they do not even bother to tell us to register for houses,” she said.

“We are a very disciplined area. Not a single day do we protest. When we have a problem, we elect people to negotiate with the municipality. But all these years, they’ve been coming back with empty promises,” said Matisi.

“I have been a community leader for seven years now and we tried so many times to call the municipal officials to come here so that they can see this place, but they do not come.

“What they know is our votes or to disconnect our electricity. But they fail to come with solutions to our living conditions,” said Matisi.

Recently 12 standpipes were installed. “For years we had been sharing one standpipe tap with Polar Park,” she said. She said they only got the taps after they told the municipality they would not vote in the May general election.

“We are eight families sharing one toilet,” said Matisi. “The toilet is far from my house. At night I go to the bushes or find a bucket then relieve myself inside the house.”

Ward 13 Councillor Nokulunga Matiwane (ANC) said toilets in both informal settlements would be built next month. She said there had been no budget to build toilets, but in this financial year’s budget the area was included.

“The work will start before end of July,” she said.

Questions sent to Buffalo City Metro Municipality spokesperson Bathandwa Diamond on 12 June have not been answered.

TOPICS:  Electricity Sanitation Water

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