Durban families have been living in this “transit camp” for 15 years, and now their homes are falling apart

They say eThekwini municipality promised that their stay would only be for 6 months, but they’re still there

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People living at the eThekwini Municipality’s KwaDabeka Transit Camp want the City to move them to decent housing. Photos: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

Families living at the KwaDabeka Transit Camp just outside Durban’s city centre are demanding that the eThekwini municipality keep a promise to move them to decent housing.

They were moved to the 609 prefabricated units by the municipality in 2009. They claim they were promised that it would only be for six months, but 15 years later, they are still there and they believe the municipality has forgotten about them. Most of the prefab units are weathered and many are in a terrible state, with the ground under the homes washing away with each rainy season.

Some residents protested on Dumisani Makhaye Drive on 27 October, briefly holding up traffic before they were chased away by police.

Community leader Zolani Yingwani, said that they were promised that their move to the transit camp would not be permanent. They previously lived in homes constructed with mud and other materials.

“Our mud houses were good enough compared to these prefabs made from rhino board. We are still hopeful that maybe one day the eThekwini municipality will come and take us back to our land because it is still vacant. It seems our government has forgotten about us,” said Yingwani.

KwaDabeka residents who were moved there in 2009 say they were only meant to live there for six months.

Resident Sandile Gumede said that when it rains, his unit floods and his belongings are damaged.

Another resident, Nokulunga Ntombela, said she struggles to care for her 15-year-old daughter, who is disabled, in the small unit which they share with five other relatives.

Ntombela said that the municipality had given her a letter on 23 March this year, that her request for housing would be escalated “because I have a disabled child”. “The letter recommended that the housing department assist me with the RDP house”.

Ward 20 Councillor Jomo Mbhele (ANC) said he was only elected in 2021 and was not familiar with promises made with municipal officials.

“I have been talking to the officials at the City but they are saying that the only problem is the lack of available land to relocate people to,” said Mbhele.

Marlaine Nair, DA spokesperson on housing in KwaZulu-Natal, said the eThekwini Urban Settlement Development Grant should be used to help the residents, who had been in the camp for 14 years. “It’s unacceptable that people are allowed to suffer when funds were made available to assist them.”

The City’s human settlements and infrastructure chairperson, Themba Mvubu said the department was considering rehabilitating the houses “as part of maintenance in the meantime while awaiting for planning approval”.

When GroundUp asked for clarity on this, municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said the only person who could respond was on sick leave.

Residents are worried that their homes could be washed away during the next heavy rainfall.

TOPICS:  Housing

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