‘No Land! No House! No Vote!’
An exposed electric cable falls to the wet ground from an electricity pole, a clear sign of illegal electricity connections.
From left to right, the wires creep into the grubby maze of tightly knit shacks, cobbled out of discarded board and other material. Rubbish lies strewn about, mucky water runs freely on the ground and the stench of sewerage assaults your nose.
Welcome to Durban’s Kennedy Road informal settlement, which has been growing for about 20 years.
The shantytown is home to about 4 000 people sharing 12 flush toilets.
While taps are available, many residents walk several minutes to fetch water using buckets, a difficult task while manoeuvring through the shacks.
“When it’s time to vote, you see them (politicians) coming into the area, promising to deliver. But after the elections, you’ll never see them again,” said Zingisa Jili, 28, one of many people who decided not to vote in Wednesday’s local government elections.
“I’ve been living here for 11 years, but there’s been no change in that time,” he said.
Jili is a member of the shack dwellers’ organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo, whose members decided to withhold their votes as part of the organisation’s “No Land! No House! No Vote!” campaign.
The married father of two works for a Newlands East company, but cannot afford to rent even a cheap flat because he earns a meagre salary.
“My wife and kids live in Umzimkhulu. I would love to fetch them, but I can’t risk their lives. We use illegal connections because there’s no access to electricity. I can’t touch my fridge without being shocked. We are willing to pay for electricity, but the government refuses to install it,” he said.
Illegal connections in the area have claimed three lives in recent years.
Jili said they felt betrayed by politicians they had trusted. “We are living in painful conditions. Housing is a basic human right. Shacks are a temporary form of housing, but people have been living here for 20 years. There is land, but the government is failing us … I trust no one when it comes to politics.”
Jili said he would not use his vote to enrich “some councillor into driving a Pajero, because that’s the only change we see”.
Also boycotting the elections were poor residents of flats at Flamingo Court, Elwyn Court, Melbourne Court, Lantern Heath and Bencorrum. Fed-up with levy increases and living-standard decreases, they said no party cared about their plight, so voting was pointless.
The residents gathered at Flamingo Court in Umbilo Road, and launched the Poor Flat Dwellers Movement to voice their concerns.
The residents were angered by the conditions of their buildings, saying electricity did not work or had been disconnected, water had been turned off and the lifts had not worked for years.
Pensioner Betty le Roux said she had heart problems and was diabetic.
“Our levies go up, but nothing has been done,” she said. “For who must we vote? No one is interested in old people, only in their money. If the parties don’t help me, why should I help them with my vote?” - The Mercury