A del­i­cate, deadly is­sue

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.

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