All quiet in Zandspruit, but squalid conditions remain

“We’re living like pigs here,” said Thobeka Nkenkana from the Zandspruit informal settlement in Honeydew, Johannesburg, this week, following service-delivery protests in the area.

Some residents of the informal settlement – across the valley from the affluent North Riding suburb — blocked the nearby Beyers Naude Drive with burning tyres on Wednesday, which led to a violent confrontation with police.

By Thursday, the road was open to traffic and all that remained of the protests were scorch marks on the road, smouldering heaps of rubble, and lone armoured trucks.

But if you take one step off Beyers Naude, behind the concrete barriers, the issues that drove Zandspruit residents to mount the protest are in plain sight.

Spent rubber-bullet cartridges litter Zandspruit’s dirt pathways and there are streams of waste water. A strong smell of raw sewage pervades the air. Water is provided by communal taps – surrounded by mud — but they are situated so low on the ground, it is impossible to get a bucket under them.


Nkenkana said many residents believe they are getting ill from the filthy conditions, and showed the Mail & Guardian her small boy’s leg which was infected and had open wounds.

Sitting in his shack, with a tourist map of New Zealand on one wall and a painting of a Paris street scene on another, the ward’s African National Congress branch secretary Tennison Nkenkana said the budget for a proper sewage system and more RDP (reconstruction and development houses) houses exists and that these projects were expected to be rolled out soon.

Nkenkana’s house is the classy one in his street, with a cement floor outside and a two-metre by two-metre living room packed with a TV, fridge and lounge suite.

Another resident Mxolisi Lubusi said while RDP houses aren’t luxurious, they have concrete walls and there is space between your house and your neighbours’.

With service delivery the foremost concern of residents, Nkenkana said residents were ready to vote for the opposition and the ANC ‘would lose the ward if they weren’t careful”.

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian
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