A delicate, deadly issue
JOBURG, already battling to deal with the influx of people and the mushrooming of informal settlements, faces a new challenge: communities of homeless people living in drainage systems and under bridges.
As we reported yesterday, the city has discovered that dozens of homeless people live in the belly of Joburg.
Down there, they have created “motels” where they live. In some cases, their belongings, including furniture and other household goods, make the drainage system and bridges look like homes.
The cost to the city of this trend is devastating. When it rains, the city points out, these items block the drainage system, causing flooding across Joburg.
Roads are submerged in water and some washed away. Cars are damaged and lives are lost – as was experienced in November last year when floods lashed Joburg and parts of Ekurhuleni, leaving a trail of destruction.
Chaotic scenes played out on the N3 Buccleuch and Gillooly’s interchanges, N12 in Edenvale, Albertina Sisulu and R21 at OR Tambo International Airport, as well as Jan Smuts Avenue in Parktown, with truck drivers having to resuscitate people on the backs of their trucks, cars being washed away and six people declared dead.
Insurance companies also took a knock as claims for damaged vehicles rocketed.
While many put this down to natural disasters, it now appears the marginalised people caused some of this in their desperation to have their own little spaces to call home.
As a result of rural-urban migration, which will continue as more and more people trek to the City of Gold in search of a better life, the authorities have their work cut out for them to deal with the influx.
They have to clean up the drainage system and find suitable accommodation for those living in these inhumane conditions. It’s a tough balancing act for the city, which must respect and uphold human rights and dignity while enforcing city by-laws.