Residents of Ekuthuleni informal settlement near Springs live in a sea of troubles. This is because they face many hardships daily. most of the residents live in poverty as they are unemployed and have little or no income to sustain themselves. Lack of adequate sanitation in the area is a cause of concern to many. The area has reservoirs underground which leads to flooding during rainy seasons. Residents say have reported to the local council, but they have not received any help.
They eagerly await to be allocated houses in a better area where they can have adequate sanitation, however some disappointed, have lost hope.
Over 300 residents in the informal settlement compete for only 3 tapes of water. This has been causing chaos in the community. Some say they would rather contract the coronavirus than queue to fetch water to wash their hands. On top of not having enough water there are only few toilets and residents often struggle to wash their hands after using the toilet.
Some residents have made their water connections to try and make life easier.
‘Surely, we deserve to live under healthy conditions too, the life we lead is unbearable. We can’t even start to think of COVID 19 because if one of us here in the informal settlement get it, we will all be at risk because of our poor living conditions,” says Whiskey Mohlala a committee member for the informal settlement.
Mohlala says in the early hours of the morning residents make long queues just to fetch some water and they sometimes queue to use toilets.
With winter slowly settling in residents have already started making illegal electric connections. Many electrical wires are visible in open spaces where small children play bare foot, putting them at risk of electrocution.
According to Mohlala, some people from Ekuthleni were reported to have died from electrocution over the past five years.
“Less than five years ago a woman was electrocuted through izinyoka (illegal electric wires). It was a painful experience. But sadly, that is the only form of electricity we can rely on.”
After the incident residents have tried to be more careful, he says.
“Illegal electricity is extremely dangerous but there is nothing we can do. The best we can do is to encourage each other to be extra careful. We encourage parents to watch their children but not everyone has time to do that,” he says.
He says having electricity is better that lighting candle or fires at night as this has also resulted in some shacks burning in the past.
“We have called several meetings with the local Ward Councillor, but he never comes to the meetings, now we feel abandoned.”
“Now we do not care anymore, we have learnt so survive on our own without the government. COVID 19 or life in the informal settlement is full of risks,” Mohlala says.
Written by: Kimberly Mutandiro