Tragedy inflames burning resentment in Kagiso
In Kagiso, as in so many other settlements in South Africa, time moves on but the appalling conditions persist. Heidi Swart reports.
Angry residents of Kagiso, outside Krugersdorp in Gauteng, mounted a protest this week after two schoolchildren were knocked down on the busy Tudor Road, which runs through the informal settlement.
But the community's resentment runs much deeper: almost 20 years after apartheid, they are still waiting for the Mogale City municipality to provide electricity and an adequate water supply.
On Tuesday, a seven-year-old girl was killed by a truck while crossing the main road in the informal settlement on her way to school. Later that day, a young boy was run over and is still in hospital.
On Wednesday, local government officials and community members met to discuss the issues and the municipality agreed to prioritise putting speed bumps in Tudor Road and dealing with water, sanitation and illumination.
Eskom cannot provide electricity to an informal settlement that is not proclaimed a township, but the municipality has provided some high-mast street lights.
Poor person's toilet paper
Jabulani Radebe (47) has lived in Kagiso for 20 years and said nothing had changed during that time. "There's plenty of stuff [wrong] here. Firstly it is water; people are queuing for it. There are only four taps for the whole area."
He said there were not enough toilets and no electricity, even though the residents were promised electricity about 10 years ago.
"Use that one," Nomfusi Mboyisa said, pointing to the third concrete cubicle in a row of five toilets, after agreeing to show me around the township. They are freestanding and for communal use. In the first, the toilet bowl was stained with faeces and the floor was wet, covered with newspaper and phonebook pages – the poor person's toilet paper. Conditions in the third toilet were the same as the first.
Outside, Mboyisa – in her orange municipal overall – was still waiting with a broad smile on her face. I asked her whether she sat down on those toilet seats, unafraid of contracting an infection. "We sit down. We don't have a choice," she said slowly. There was no sign of anger, only resignation and fatigue.
Municipal spokesperson Nkosana Zali said there was a tap within 200m of every house and tankers provided water every day. There is one toilet for every three "families", which is within norms.
Mboyisa is stuck in the settlement. "I have a matric certificate, but there wasn't money to go further. My father is dead and my mother was unemployed."
She is a municipal community project worker, one of the women who work eight days a month cleaning up the streets and earns R500, which she said did not go far.
Because there is no electricity, fire is a hazard. Sipho Mainda (47) said paraffin was a dangerous substitute. "Our shacks burn. If one shack burns, they all burn."
Municipal tenders – and hoped-for job creation – is another sore point. Mainda said: "[Kagiso] people are not working on municipal tenders. They bring people from the outside."
But Zali said the municipality set aside 40% of its procurement to local business every year.
Caroline Jodwana (46) has two children and four grandchildren living with her. With no income she, like so many of Kagiso's people, rummages through the nearby Mogale City municipal rubbish dump for extra food.
Trucks pass regularly along Tudor Road, carrying materials to small industries surrounding Kagiso and waste to the municipal dump. The road runs between Kagiso 1, where there are two primary schools, and Soul City, the part of Kagiso where most of the people and children live. They have no choice but to
cross the road.
Two traffic officers help children to cross the road in front of Tsholetsega Primary School, but there is no one to help on the main road.
Mainda said he volunteered at the municipality in December last year to help the children across the road "but they said they would get their own person". But there is still no traffic officer on duty.
Heidi Swart is the Eugene Saldanha Fellow in social justice reporting, sponsored by the Charities Aid Foundation, Southern Africa