‘What about us?’

One work­ing tap for 2,000 house­holds as virus lock­down looms

The Herald (South Africa) - - Front Page - No­maz­ima Nkosi nkosino@the­herald.co.za

Two thou­sand shacks and only one work­ing tap — and now lock­down.

That is the re­al­ity for peo­ple liv­ing in Port El­iz­a­beth’s No­makan­jani in­for­mal set­tle­ment.

Though the sprawl­ing com­mu­nity has eight taps — woe­fully too few even if they were all work­ing — only one is func­tional, mean­ing res­i­dents have to queue, some­times for hours, just to fill their wa­ter bot­tles and buck­ets.

As SA moves closer to­wards a na­tional lock­down in an at­tempt to con­tain the spread of the coro­n­avirus, the res­i­dents of No­makan­jani are won­der­ing how they will cope.

Walk­ing around the area, a densely packed set­tle­ment in Mother­well, chil­dren are seen peek­ing through front doors — usu­ally the only way to ac­cess the one or two-room shacks.

As they peer out at passersby, sweat beads form on their up­per lips on a warm day in the city.

Stand­ing at the only work­ing tap, a woman man­ages to gather enough wa­ter to do her laun­dry and wash her blan­kets.

Stand­ing with her hand on her hip, she said she did not know how the com­mu­nity would be able to func­tion dur­ing the lock­down.

“What does this mean? Are we not go­ing to be able to fetch wa­ter be­cause we’re be­ing told to stay in­doors?” the woman, who asked not to be named, said.

No­makan­jani com­mu­nity leader Vuyani Lloyd said he was ex­tremely con­cerned about the pos­si­bil­ity of Covid19 hit­ting the metro and in­fect­ing the set­tle­ment’s res­i­dents.

“We’re liv­ing in a corona sit­u­a­tion be­cause you have ap­prox­i­mately 4,500 peo­ple liv­ing in No­makan­jani and we share eight taps.

“In some of those taps, wa­ter is only trick­ling out and more pres­sure is needed.

“The lock­down the govern­ment is im­ple­ment­ing is putting pres­sure on us be­cause we’re liv­ing on top of each other in a highly con­gested area, so we don’t know what do to.

“As peo­ple liv­ing in in­for­mal set­tle­ments it’s go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult for us be­cause we want to comply and fol­low what govern­ment is say­ing but we have chil­dren and it’s very hot in those shacks.

“Some of us don’t even have yards for the chil­dren to play in,” Lloyd said.

On Mon­day night, Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa an­nounced that SA would go into lock­down for three weeks from mid­night to­day.

He said the Na­tional Com­mand Team on the coro­n­avirus had de­ter­mined that this was a nec­es­sary step to con­tain the spread of the global pan­demic.

By yes­ter­day morn­ing, the num­ber of con­firmed cases of Covid-19 in the coun­try had in­creased to 709.

Glob­ally, more than 450,00 peo­ple had been in­fected with over 20,000 deaths.

An­other res­i­dent of No­makan­jani, Siphokazi Hlalu, said govern­ment of­fi­cials spoke a lot about hy­giene and the need for peo­ple to keep their hands clean.

But in the in­for­mal set­tle­ment — where more than 4,000 res­i­dents had to share

just five bucket toi­lets — this was sim­ply im­pos­si­ble, Hlalu said.

“For one, we don’t have wa­ter to wash our hands.

“We don’t have sani­tis­ers to clean the spa­ces around us and when we have to re­lieve our­selves, there are only five toi­lets to share among 4,000 peo­ple. It’s not pos­si­ble,” she said.

Hlalu said peo­ple had re­sorted to digging long-drops rather than use the com­mu­nal toi­lets which, she said, were a con­duit for many in­fec­tions.

Mkhulu Jeyi said his main con­cern about the lock­down was that res­i­dents might be left without elec­tric­ity and wa­ter.

“The toi­lets we have here are not sufficient for the peo­ple here. Refuse col­lec­tion is nonex­is­tent. “Those af­fected most will be us.

“Wa­ter is the main is­sue be­cause it’s the one thing that causes us to leave our homes.

“It’s not enough for the govern­ment to tell peo­ple to stay in their houses and not leave.

“What is the govern­ment do­ing for peo­ple liv­ing in shacks like us?

“This is a huge con­cern for us as it has the po­ten­tial to be a dis­as­ter be­cause should one per­son be in­fected, we’ll all catch it be­cause of how we live.

“We have not been catered for, nor has govern­ment taken our needs into ac­count,” Jeyi said.

Sit­ting in­side her shack, do­mes­tic worker Non­tombi Klaas said she was wor­ried about how she would make ends meet.

“We’re go­ing to go hun­gry dur­ing this 21-day pe­riod be­cause it’s no work, no pay for me.

“I’ve got one child and it’s hot in­side this shack.

“We’re scared to even leave the house ever since this virus came out.

“This morn­ing, I went to fetch wa­ter and had to wait for three hours be­fore it was my turn,” Klaas said.

Nel­son Man­dela Bay in­fra­struc­ture and engi­neer­ing po­lit­i­cal head Andile Lungisa said he had met com­mu­nity lead­ers from the metro’s in­for­mal set­tle­ments to out­line the city’s plans.

“We’re de­ploy­ing wa­ter tankers and stamp pipes to­day.

“We’re also in­stalling bush fa­cil­i­ties in the form of chem­i­cal toi­lets and elec­tri­cal con­trac­tors are con­tin­u­ing the work of electrifyi­ng the ar­eas that don’t have elec­tric­ity.

“All of this is be­ing used from the cur­rent bud­get [2019/2020 fi­nan­cial year] and we’ve not de­vi­ated in any way,” he said.

Lungisa said in line with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s de­ci­sion, the chem­i­cal toi­lets were a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion and would con­tinue be­ing in­stalled through­out the year.

He said the city’s pub­lic health department was also work­ing on en­sur­ing that res­i­dents in in­for­mal set­tle­ments stayed safe by dis­tribut­ing hand sani­tis­ers to com­mu­ni­ties in need.

Pic­tures: WERNER HILLS

LACK OF RE­SOURCES: Res­i­dents of the No­makan­jani in­for­mal set­tle­ment queue up to use a com­mu­nal tap

DAILY STRUG­GLE: Res­i­dent Siphokazi Hlalu, 39, walks through a nar­row al­ley­way be­tween the houses

TOO CLOSE: There is lit­tle space be­tween houses in the area, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ad­here to the call for so­cial dis­tanc­ing

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