A Philippi informal settlement is facing a looming health crisis because of sewage from a blocked, overflowing drain.
A stream of stinking effluent runs through the homes of Siyangena. Residents say they have lived with the problem for almost three months.
Neighbourhood shacks have been swamped and the stench of human waste hangs over the area.
Residents like Sivuyile Ntshinga fear the outbreak of deadly water-borne diseases.
Mr Ntshinga moved into the area last year and fears it’s only a matter of time before the sewage starts seeping through his shack from the back.
He knows he will have to move then, but he doesn’t know where he will go.
Mr Ntshinga said the smell was worse in the morning, and, at times, it forced residents to keep their windows closed.
“The stench is inescapable. The faeces gets stuck on people’s doorsteps. We have requested the ward councillor several times to come and see this thing himself, but he told us that he is aware of this matter, and that is all.
“When one wakes up in the morning, the smell is too much. It seems like people living in informal settlements are forgotten communities. This area needs to be cleaned and serviced regularly.
“I was renting in Delft, and when I lost my job, I could not afford to pay the rent, and I decided to come and build a shack here.”
Mr Ntshinga said people feared their children might drown in the deluged area, and the stench had driven others out.
Community leader Elliot Goyiya moved into the area in June last year and shares his two-room shack with his wife and two children.
Their pleas for help had fallen on deaf ears, he said.
Now, as a last resort, the community planned to hire a generator to pump the effluent from their doorsteps. But the only way to solve the problem, he said, was to fix the drain.
Mayoral committee member for waste and water Xanthea Limberg said the settlement was on privately owned land, the result of an illegal land invasion in 2018. The land was unfit for human habitation so services could not be installed, even if the City was legally able to do so.
The most the City had been able to do in this case, she said, was install standpipes, toilets and refuse containers on adjacent land, but residents had made illegal connections to water sources on the edges of the settlement.
The combination of the illegal connections without drainage and recent rains was to blame for the flooding, she said.
“The land was prone to flooding prior to the settlement being established.Officials from the water and waste directorate visited the site on Thursday last week, to perform a site inspection, and submitted requests to alleviate the conditions. The community leadership requested sand, which has been delivered by the City,” she said.
“Residents were directly engaged on how the illegal water connections exacerbate the drainage problems of the land itself. We appeal to residents to please refrain from establishing illegal water connections and illegally occupying land that is unsuitable for human habitation.”
Ward councillor Mboniswa Chitha said he had warned people not to build shacks in the area as it was a drainage pond unsuitable for habitation.