Survey paints a bleak picture

From Left, Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, coordinator of Informal Settlements Melanie Johnson, and coordinator of South African Slum/Shack Dwellers International Alliance, Rose Molekwane.

The recent data collection findings by the South African Slum/Shack Dwellers International Alliance (SASDI) show that the backlog of housing allocation and poor sanitation services remain major issues facing informal settlements in the Western Cape.

Among other things, the findings indicate that there is a growing filthiness in the informal settlements while lack of access to water and electricity had been identified as a common challenge.

They pointed out that informal settlement communities are growing rapidly.

As part of the findings, the residents were profiled and the unemployment rate was also flagged as another problem.

These findings were presented to the Minster of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, when the SASDI held an event themed Know Your City campaign at Gug S’thebe in Langa on Thursday September 7.

About 100 informal settlements out of over 248 in the province had been surveyed.

The organisation has done a number of data collections in various provinces in the country with the intention of rooting out the bucket system and pit latrines used for toilets.

Co-ordinator of SASDI, Mzwanele Zulu, said to be able to conduct an accurate survey, people living in these communities need to be hired to conduct them as they were familiar with their surroundings and that adds value to their research.

He said the finding suggests that the government needs to improve sanitation in the informal settlements while the people were still waiting to be allocated houses.

He said the sanitation survey brings an opportunity for the residents to engage with the government about the development plans it has for their areas and also helps the government to see where they were lacking in terms of service delivery. He said these findings were completed towards the end of last year.

“We want to assist the government in bringing service delivery. We want our communities to take initiative in identifying their needs and challenges. In way we are empowering communities so that they can be aware of what they need to do to get their voices heard,” he said.

Ms Sisulu said these findings help the government draft their budget.

She said this unique data approach is vital and it also creates employment opportunities.

“Communities open up much better to people they are familiar with as opposed to government. The government is unable to get this depth of information and this is essential to them. The budget is driven by numbers and we are always guessing whenever I’m asked about the backlog number of housing allocation and give them the latest findings that I have. But this is real time information and accurate,” she said.

Regional leader of Federation of The Urban Poor (FEDUP), Nozuko Fulani, said the organisations reinforces a commitment to ensure that urban poor communities were part of the development conversations.

Ms Fulani said they work alongside the SASDI and attempt to determine what community service centres the community have and what are they lacking. She said they conducted these data collections every six months.

“We found that every minute the common toilets provided in informal settlements were being used. The required number of people who are supposed to use these toilets were over. We do re-blocking when we found that there is density of shacks in the informal settlements. We count each person in a household and the findings of the government are not usually accurate. Taps and toilets were breaking almost every minute because they are over used,” she said.

She said they have also established a savings stokvel whereby they urge women to be savvy about saving money.

She said the money is used for their personal and community needs.