Slovo Park fury at City of Johannesburg’s broken promises

City has still not upgraded the settlement in spite of a 2016 court ruling

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Evelyn Ntimande came to Slovo Park when she was 27. Now her elder daughter is 27 and they are still living in poverty. Photos: Chris Gilili

  • Residents of Slovo Park south of Johannesburg protested for a second time this week, blocking the N12 highway.
  • They want the City of Johannesburg to comply with a 2016 court ruling to upgrade the 30-year-old informal settlement.
  • In protests earlier this week a teenager was killed by police, according to his uncle.
  • The death of 16-year-old Karabo Chaka is being investigated.

Evelyn Ntimande came to Slovo Park, south of Johannesburg, when she was 27. Her eldest daughter is now 27 and is living in the same poverty she lived in, she says. Ntimande was among Slovo Park residents who protested this week, demanding that the City of Johannesburg comply with a 2016 court order to upgrade the informal settlement.

On Thursday, the N12 highway was again blocked by burning tyres and rubbish as Slovo Park protesters took to the streets. A protest on Monday was marked by the death of a 16-year-old which is being investigated by police.

Karabo Chaka’s uncle, Jafta “Small” Chaka, said the teenager had gone outside into the yard of the family home to see what was happening during the protest. Police, who used teargas and rubber bullets to quell the protest, had entered the yard and Karabo had been shot in the head.

Protesters were complaining that nothing has been done to fix the settlement for 30 years.

In 2014, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) launched an application to the Johannesburg High Court on behalf of Slovo Park residents against the City’s failure to apply to the Gauteng Provincial Government for funding to upgrade Slovo Park in terms of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP).

In 2016, the court ruled in favour of Slovo Park residents and found that the City had acted unlawfully by failing to apply the UISP. The court ordered the City to start the process prescribed in the UISP and set down time frames.

SERI researcher Thato Masiangoako told GroundUp that, in August 2016, the City of Johannesburg submitted a business plan to build about 400 houses in Slovo Park. But SERI and the community rejected the plan which had not been prepared with community participation and which would have involved moving most of the families.

A task team was formed at the request of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum to work with the City on a new plan.

But, Masiangoako said, progress on the side of the City had been very slow. A Social Compact developed by the task team and signed at a public meeting in May this year had still not been signed by the City.

“Besides the partial electrification of Slovo Park, the community does not have much to show for the High Court victory. They live with poor and limited access to sanitation and have been having issues with water access for over a month,” Masiangoako said.

The community had patiently engaged the City but the lack of urgency had pushed Slovo Park residents “over the edge”, Masiangako said. “The tragic part is that in the process, a child has been shot and killed by police.”

The City of Johannesburg has not yet complied with a 2016 court ruling to upgrade Slovo Park.

Chairperson of the Slovo Park Community Development Forum Lerato Marole told GroundUp: “We have exhausted all avenues of engaging the government. A task team has been sitting for seven years and shifting goal posts, but nothing has been done. They haven’t signed the Social Compact even now.”

Marole said the City administration was “in tatters” and the provincial government should intervene.

Pensioner Margaret Zikalala said she lived in Slovo Park for 30 years and there had been no change.

“Why is the government taking us for fools? When they want votes they know we exist. So many kids have died in these shacks and many elderly people have died in these shacks,” said Zikalala.

“We don’t have flushing toilets; we don’t have water and we wake up early in the morning to get water from people’s yards.”

The shared toilets are very old.

Ntimande, a retired domestic worker, said: “Many women who worked with us in kitchens back then have passed on. They died hoping we would get houses.” She said residents wanted water, flush toilets and decent housing.

She said the shared pit toilets had been installed in the 1990s and were filthy and smelly.

“At least before we die, we want to know we leave our kids with a roof over their heads. Enough is enough, we have closed the highway because of pain.”

Community leader Susan Mkhwanazi said residents had been waiting for years. “We want Premier Panyaza Lesufi to come and talk to us.”

“We need flushing toilets, these toilets get full, and the waste comes up. They are old and not healthy. We need roads, because even ambulances struggle to get inside Slovo Park. If a person is sick, we have to take them to a garage a distance away to wait for an ambulance. There is no police presence in Slovo, and criminals do as they please. We are living like animals,” said Mkhwanazi.

City of Johannesburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the City and Province had signed an agreement to upgrade Slovo Park with funding from the provincial government. A Social Compact had been sent to the City and discussed at length and had been “recommended for sign-off.”

Residents say drivers of emergency vehicles struggle to use the roads.

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Dear Editor

I live diagonally across Slovo Park. We as a community were informed that upgrades were going to take place some years ago though nothing has been done as yet.

The Slovo Park residents in this area have no electricity and connect by way of illegal connections where our power trips regularly due to overloading. They dig "sewer" drainage from their shacks which runs out into Ashanti Rd. The bottom part of Ashanti Road had a refuse site which was promptly closed a few years ago and now Ashanti Rd is used as a dumping site, not only by the residents of Slovo but also by residents of Crosby. This area is a dangerous health hazard. Slovo residents burn rubbish so that it does not become too much which is understandable, but then the smoke and fire cause another health issue.

One of the older men of Slovo who sometimes did odd jobs at my house used a candle in his shack and the shack caught fire and he was hospitalised. Enough is enough. They need urgent upgrades, electricity, water, hygiene, proper drainage systems, and security. The area is riddled with crime. The court ordered this in 2016 but nothing has been done!

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