Life at Cato Crest gets worse as ward councillor remains behind bars

Residents accuse eThekwini Municipality of ignoring their calls for help

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Residents of Cato Crest informal settlement in Durban say they have not had an active ward councillor since May last year and the municipality is ignoring their needs. Photos: Manqulo Nyakombi

  • For a year, families living at Cato Crest informal settlement near Mayville, Durban have not had a ward councillor.
  • The ward 101 councillor and three others were arrested in May last year. They are accused of killing the councillor’s predecessor ahead of the 2021 elections.
  • Residents believe the eThekwini Municipality has been ignoring their calls for help as the settlement’s condition continues to get worse since the devastating floods in April last year.

It’s been a year since families living at Cato Crest informal settlement near Mayville, Durban have had award councillor. They believe the eThekwini Municipality has been ignoring their calls for help as the settlement’s condition continues to worsen since the devastating floods in April last year.

More than 30 families are forced to share one pit toilet in the settlement because most of the toilets built by the municipality are blocked and broken. Many people have resorted to building their own pit latrines.

According to residents, the land was first occupied in 2013 by people who had been living in backyards. The settlement has grown due to its close proximity to job opportunities in Durban’s city centre. Cato Crest, under Ward 101, currently has about 600 shacks, according to a community leader.

The community says uncollected rubbish has been piling up around the settlement for months, but they have no councillor to take their complaints to the municipality.

Councillor behind bars

Ward 101’s councillor Mzimuni Ngiba has been behind bars since May 2022. He and three others face charges of murder and attempted murder. They are accused of killing Ngiba’s predecessor Councillor Siyabonga Mkhize and an ANC member Mzukisi Nyanga before the 2021 local government elections.

Mkhize, said to be the preferred ward councillor, was killed in October 2021 while campaigning door-to-door in Cato Crest. By-elections were held in February 2022, and Ngiba won.

EThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kauda’s spokesperson, Mluleki Mtungwa, confirmed that Ngiba still receives his monthly salary. Mtungwa said that Ngiba is still regarded as the current ward councillor until he has been convicted.

Regional spokesperson for the ANC in eThekwini, Mlondi Mkhize, acknowledged concerns over the situation in Ward 101.

Meanwhile the DA is calling for Ngiba to be fired. DA KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Martin Meyer blamed the lack of service in ward 101 on Ngiba’s absence. “This ward councillor is not attending council meetings or calling community meetings. No one is representing the residents’ grievances and yet he is still getting his salary,” said Meyer.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) spokesperson Siboniso Mngadi said the department is monitoring the situation “with the hope that the Speaker of Council will expedite the matter”.

These are some of the tree stumps cut down near shacks at Cato Crest. Residents say at least 14 trees have fallen on shacks since the floods last year.

Apart from the sanitation problems, residents also complained that rubbish has not been collected for months. There is no formal electricity and most shacks rely on illegal connections.

Residents say the area is not safe after the floods last year and at least 14 trees have fallen on shacks since then. They want to be relocated.

Resident Noxolo Nodwengu said last year a tree fell on her home while her eight-year-old son was still inside. “Luckily my son was standing near the door when the shack fell. I managed to drag him out, but he had minor injuries,” she said.

Nodwengu said she paid R1,500 to have the fallen tree removed from the area so that she could rebuild her shack. “We don’t know what to do for the municipality to hear us. They don’t care but they want our votes,” she said.

Community leader Zakhele Gwija said residents have no one to turn to since Ngiba’s arrest. He said service delivery has always been a problem in Cato Crest, but without a councillor, it’s getting worse. “EThekwini Municipality is aware of this problem. We have asked them several times to cut these trees… Now we don’t have someone to hold accountable,” said Gwija.

Head of Communication at eThekwini, Lindiwe Khuzwayo, said the City is slowly trying to relocate people from the informal settlement, but more people moving onto the land as well and land occupations are major challenges for the City.

TOPICS:  Housing

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