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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More