The densely populated informal settlement of Cato Crest, in Durban. The government has said it is looking to reduce the number of people living in these settlements, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.  
Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi  African News Agency (ANA)
The densely populated informal settlement of Cato Crest, in Durban. The government has said it is looking to reduce the number of people living in these settlements, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi African News Agency (ANA)

Plans to shrink informal settlements to curb virus

By Kailene Pillay and Karen Singh Time of article published Mar 25, 2020

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Durban - The Department of Human Settlements says it is looking to de-populate large informal settlements in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Tuesday.

Part of the de-densifying strategy is to move those living in overcrowded informal settlements, and provide water and sanitation to all.

The department, Sisulu said, has used a heat map to identify areas of serious congestion.

Twenty-nine areas of priority - which are informal settlements - have been identified and these areas are largely found in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Sisulu said the department was already working with the departments of Rural Development and Land Reform and Public Works, to establish places to house people. They are also working with the municipalities in those identified areas, to assist during the migration process.

“We are appealing to those communities to work with the departments with the de-densifying operations,” she said.

She added that further details around the migration process would be revealed at a later stage.

Sisulu, who is also minister of Water and Sanitation, added that the department had identified around 2000 communities across South Africa that were facing water shortages.

She said that water and sanitation facilities would be provided for those communities at 2991 sites.

Buckets and sanitation products would also be delivered to those living in rural areas, while anyone who was experiencing water shortages and has not been responded to can contact the hotline on 0800200200.

Shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo voiced concerns that the eThekwini Municipality had not delivered on its promise to implement measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in informal settlements.

Last week, the municipality said it would be implementing measures to prevent the spread of the virus in informal settlements.

These measures included the provision of water storage tankers, the installation of liquid soap dispensers and hand sanitisers, as well as awareness campaigns.

“Of the estimated 590 informal settlements in eThekwini, 294 have access to clean running water and washing facilities, through the Communal Ablution Blocks, which have already been provided,” said municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela.

Mayisela said the municipality would provide water storage tanks in all informal settlements where there were no communal ablution facilities.

Additional water points would be installed at all 2200 communal ablution facilities, he added.

But Abahlali president S’bu Zikode said these measures have not yet been implemented.

“This is urgent, its a matter of life and death There’s no water, nothing has been provided and nobody communicates anything to the informal settlements,” he said.

Zikode said they had written a letter to Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, requesting a meeting to address concerns regarding the potential spread of the virus in settlements, but he had not received a response.

Zikode said they were under huge pressure because people were asking questions that they could not answer.

In response to Zikode’s comments, Mayisela said municipal staff would ensure that the water tankers were deployed to informal settlements and hand sanitisers would be made available immediately.

“We plead with residents to use the water sparingly and not waste it. We also ask that residents respect those distributing sanitisers and that there is no criminal activity,” said Mayisela.

Meanwhile Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu reiterated their commitment to ensuring that social grants, for the elderly and disabled, would be made available on March 30 and 31. All other grants would be available on April 1.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices would remain closed during the nationwide lockdown and would not be facilitating new applicants. Those who are in need of assistance can email [email protected]

She said they were also working closely with non-profit organisations in ensuring feeding schemes would still be operational to deliver food to impoverished children in their homes. This, she said, would be done with the support of the security cluster.

“There are 235 community nutrition distribution centres and food banks that would be operational, specifically in rural areas,” Zulu said.

The Mercury

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