News / Africa

SAF Settlement Residents Struggle as World Marks Water Day

Emily Ntake pumps water in South Africa's Makause community
Emily Ntake pumps water in South Africa's Makause community

Multimedia

Scott Bobb

The international community is marking World Water Day this year under the theme of water and urbanization - noting that for the first time in history, more than one-half of the world's population now lives in cities. In Africa, which has the highest urbanization rate in the world, 70 percent of city dwellers live in slums or shantytowns, often called informal settlements.

It is early morning in Makause, a sprawling settlement of shacks made mostly of tin and wood, sitting on an old mining ridge outside Johannesburg.

Makause's 12,000 residents do not have running water, so every day they must fill their buckets at communal taps. The city has installed two of these at the edge of the community.

The settlement emerged more than 20 years ago after the gold mine beneath it shut down. The owners now want to earn income from the land by using it for housing developments or light industry.

Four years ago, hundreds of people were forcibly evicted from a strip of land in the middle of the settlement. Their shacks destroyed, they were forced to move 40 kilometers outside the city.  With no jobs or services there, many returned.

Emily Ntake has been living here with her small son for two years while she looks for a job. She says because the city water taps are so far away, she uses one of 17 illegal taps built by neighbors.

"We've got a problem of water here. It's got to come. So we need more taps so that we can have water," said Ntake.

Makause residents also have no public electricity.  A few businesses operate using generators.

There is also no public sanitation. Residents dig pit latrines in their yards and enclose them for privacy. When the pit fills up, they cover it with dirt and dig another.

Following the end of apartheid 17 years ago, the black-led government embarked on an ambitious program to deliver basic services to its poor.  It built more than one million low-income houses and brought public water, electricity and sanitation to millions of people.

But a large portion of the population of nearly 50 million still lives without public utilities.

After years of waiting, frustrated residents here organized the Makause Settlement Development Forum to press for housing and basic services.

Ndawoyakhe Mpambo is the forum's chairman and he says all we are getting from the government is just promises, since we started voting 17 years ago. Every time there is an election, he says, the politicians come here promising a lot but we don't see it.

There are frequent demonstrations, sometimes violent, across South Africa by residents of informal settlements demanding housing and public services.

Professor Marie Huchzermeyer of Johannesburg's Witwatersrand University says the riots are about more than the lack of services.

"These delays, combined with broken promises," said Huchzermeyer.  "And then it's another year, and another year, and another year, and more excuses coming from the municipality. And that really causes huge dissatisfaction and a strong sense that they're not being heard."

Lawsuits in a few cases have led the courts to order local authorities to provide the services, which are guaranteed under South Africa's constitution.  But implementation has been slow.

City planners say it is difficult to bring pipes into communities where crooked footpaths are the norm rather than grid-like streets.

Some countries, most notably Brazil, have adopted a policy of providing services to residents of informal settlements rather than waiting until they can build them proper houses.

The South African government recently promised to do the same for 400,000 people in informal settlements within three years.  But Huchzermeyer says local governments are reluctant to bring city services to such communities.

"There is this mindset that if you improve informal settlements by giving them water and sanitation you are rewarding them and more people will then follow suit and do the same in order to access water and services and ultimately housing," added Huchzermeyer.

She says governments want to make their cities more attractive to investors and see the settlements as eyesores.  As a result, many like her believe it will take considerable social pressure to improve the lives of people like the residents of Makause.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs