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

Photogallery Pope Condemns IS 'Persecution' of Minorities

Pope delivers annual 'Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and the world) blessing, appeals for end to conflicts in Africa, dialogue in Middle East, condemns Taliban attack in Pakistan More

China Reduces Number of Crimes Punishable by Death

Earlier this year China announced plans to remove nine crimes from the list of capital offenses, including counterfeiting, fraudulent fund-raising and forcing others into prostitution More

Analysis: For N. Koreans, Parody Has Grave Tone

Most North Koreans who might see 'The Interview' would be horribly offended, outraged, and confused 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.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid