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‘We are treated like sewage’

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The residents say that they have been fighting a losing battle “since the dawn of democracy”

EMPTY PROMISES: Angry Santa Centre residents said yesterday that they have been living on empty promises for decades and were being treated just like the sewage flowing in their streets. Picture: Danie van der Lith

“STOP spewing empty and hollow words from your mouth. If you can’t say something that will actually materialise, don’t say anything at all. And don’t come knocking on our door for a vote. You will be lucky to find a door that you can get to without dirtying your shoes in the sewage blocking the entrances of our shanties.”

These were the sentiments of irate Santa Centre residents who said that they have been living on empty promises for decades.

“Some of our older residents, like 70-year-old Anna Moraki, have been pushed around from pillar to post. She was forced to move from behind Shoprite and when the then Sol Plaatje executive mayor, Mangaliso Matika, came to make his sweeping promises, Ouma Moraki was promised a house. You can see nothing has happened since and even though she is sickly, she is forced to make use of an outside toilet,” a concerned resident said.

Moraki is just one of the many who feel let down.

“I don’t feel like a human. I’m being treated just like the sewage flowing all around us. It seems like I will die before I see anything happening around here,” one resident said.

The residents say that they have been fighting a losing battle “since the dawn of democracy”.

“We first settled in behind the Shoprite centre. They then told us to move to where we currently are. Then they told us that we need to give our names and ID numbers so that we can qualify for a house when they start developing the area. We did this and when we went to enquire about our numbers, we were told they were never registered.

“Does this mean we will be forced to live under these conditions forever or will they promise us that if we vote for them we will get our houses?

“We don’t know anymore. One thing we do know for sure is that we will definitely not be voting in this year’s general election unless they can prove to us that the promises they have made, and will make, will be fulfilled.

“We are told that our vote is our voice. We will definitely let our voices be heard come election day.”

Residents claim further that money was allocated in the IDP budget 2017/18 for houses. “At the same time money was allocated to Roodepan and Roodepan is seeing development taking place. Here, there has been absolutely nothing and we want to know what has happened to the money that was allocated.”

When they demanded answers and a meeting with the current Sol Plaatje executive mayor, Patrick Mabilo, the residents say that they were stonewalled. “We actually went again last week to seek answers but we were told his diary is full for the rest of the year and he can’t see us.”

They also said that they are living in fear as just last week a shanty burnt down and they could not even help the owners. “It was really scary. We only have the one tap and it is quite far from the shanty that burnt down. We just had to stand and watch it burn. The people in the shanty lost everything.”

Not only is the threat of losing everything in a fire very real for the residents, but they also fear for their safety because they still have to make use of the bucket system.

“Just take someone like Ouma Moraki. Firstly her toilet is several metres from her house and she has to struggle to get there. Once she gets there, she has to deal with the fear that someone might be waiting in there and she could be attacked. This is not how we are supposed to live. We are humans too and have rights.

“In the past, Santa and Mahala Park residents have blocked Barkly Road with rocks, just so that someone would listen to their plight. Now residents are saying they are not going to protest in that manner. The people making use of the road have nothing to do with our cause and we won’t take it out on them.

“We are giving the mayor seven days to respond to us otherwise he will have to accept the consequences. Enough is enough. We are all human beings and demand to be treated as such.”

The chairperson of the Sol Plaatje City Council’s housing committee called for a status report on Santa Centre in September last year. However, by this month’s meeting, that report was still being awaited.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality said yesterday that the issue of the cleaning of the buckets, when it came to their attention, was immediately dealt with in November 2018.

“The blocked sewers, which runs through to Barkly Road, are attended to as they are reported. In fact, our team is currently out to investigate the drain and sewerage issue,” Sol Plaatje municipal spokesperson Thoko Riet said.

She added that four taps were installed in 2018 when Matika visited the area and a request was made for more taps.

“Our team from waterworks will visit the area tomorrow (today) to investigate and see how best we can assist them in that regard.”

Riet denied that numbers were never registered. “The matter is currently being discussed with the Department of Human Settlements, and was even discussed earlier today (yesterday) at the human settlements portfolio committee meeting.”

She further stated that the executive mayor takes every enquiry from the community seriously and will respond to a request at his earliest convenience. “However, community members are encouraged to visit the mayor’s office without an appointment, especially in cases of emergency, because he is here to serve the community.”

Riet added that with the recently elected councillor, a new committee will be elected which will deal with the issue of housing immediately after the national elections.