Trapped in poverty

Residents of Jika Joe settlement in the heart of the city say they are forced to live under horrible and oppressive conditions with no service delivery from government.

Some residents have been living in tents since they lost their homes in a fire last month. Msunduzi has not allowed the group to rebuild their shacks as the land they were occupying has been earmarked for municipal flats.

“We will never be able to live in those flats because we don’t earn enough to pay rent.

“The municipality should rather look into giving us land to build our shacks or build the houses that it has been promising us for years,” said Plaas Mhlakwami.

Not far from the tents are transit camps where some residents say they have lived since 2014.

Most of them were unemployed and could not afford to relocate.

“We were told that we are only going to be here for a year and then we will be moved to RDP houses, but it’s been three years and I’ve lost hope that we will ever get proper housing,” said Thembalakhe Motaung.

Celukuthula Zulu said instead of helping make their lives better, both local and provincial government oppressed and drove them deep into poverty.

“Before my shack burnt down in 2016 I ran a mini spaza shop and sold a few items like vegetables and cooldrinks from my home but the municipality has threatened to kick me out [of a transit home] if I continue with a spaza shop,” he said.

When he had a spaza shop, Zulu was able to make enough money to send at least R1 000 to his family in Nongoma every month.

He now sells cans for recycling to make ends meet, which earns him less than R500 a month.

“It’s been really difficult. I can only afford to eat two meals a day and most of the time it’s just plain bread and tea but I can’t risk being kicked out because I’ll have to go back home and start from scratch. At least when I’m here I can look for jobs. I’m willing to do anything, even mixing concrete or sweeping the streets,” he said.

While some like Zulu are desperate to hang onto to their shelter, ward councillor Nkululeko Mkhize said some of the transit homes were being illegally rented out to foreign nationals at about R1 000 a month.

There were also reports that the municipality does not even come to fix communal taps and sinks. When something breaks the residents have to collect donations to buy parts and fix things themselves.

Residents living across the road from Jika Joe said they were concerned about the health hazard posed by piles of waste lining the streets and vacant areas.

Mkhize said Msunduzi used to supply skip bins before it stopped collecting waste from the area months ago.

“I honestly don’t know why they stopped collecting waste but as you can see, the municipality has forgotten about the people of Jika Joe.”