Atrocious QQ section stuns community

Published Jul 18, 2005


Just six taps for 3 000 people, no legal electricity, no toilets, no refuse collection and a rubbish dump that doubles as a playground - this is life in QQ section of Khayelitsha, which has some of the most atrocious living conditions in Cape Town.

It is why the QQ section Community Committee has been at the forefront of violent protests in recent weeks that have included burning tyres, scattering rotting refuse in streets and clashing with police.

Last week the city revealed that national standards for service levels were one toilet for every five dwellings, water within 200m of a dwelling, refuse collection and electrification.

Although inhabitants of QQ section - a flood-prone site - had to be relocated, there should be provision of sanitation and water for the area in the immediate future.

The deadline for a site inspection paving the way to implement such services was on Monday.

Mzonke Poni, the leader of the Community Committee, says the land on which QQ is situated is owned by Eskom. There are huge power lines overhead.

People have been living there for more than 15 years, although it is low-lying and marshy and prone to flooding.

Although there are no official estimates of how many people live in QQ, the community reckons there are 900 shacks in which about 3 000 live.

Some shacks house as many as eight people.

Late in 2003, 40 shacks burnt down.

When visited on Friday, signs of flooding - including huge puddles of water inside several shacks - were still visible after rains that occurred more than a month earlier.

In one section, the stench was unbearable. Children played in piles of rubbish - rotten tomatoes, torn black refuse bags loaded with dirt and flies buzzing.

There is no refuse collection in the area.

According to the community, some children are suffering from scabies.

The shacks are tightly packed together, with barely enough space to squeeze between them.

So-called grey water, caused by leaks from the six standing taps, is creating a breeding-ground for disease.

Poni said most people had applied for houses on an individual basis. In 1997 President Thabo Mbeki had visited the area and, said Poni, promised that residents would be moved.

About three months before last year's voting, the African National Congress' election machine had pulled into QQ section and asked residents to put their names on a list for electricity supply, Poni said.

But this was another promise that had not been kept.

The community did not want any more promises.

They believed the city had land in Blue Downs where they were to be be moved. But the council had not informed the community when this would happen or when tenders would be invited to decide who would relocate the QQ squatters.

He said any relocation tender should include a stipulation that local jobless people - the area has nearly 60 percent unemployment- should be hired to carry out the move.

The city had to make firm commitments to dates and timeframes - otherwise the community would consider the promise just more lip-service ahead of the coming local government elections.

Rose Vuma, 60, moved from Langa to QQ section in 1989.

Mama Rose, as she is known in the area, used to travel by taxi and train to work in Wynberg.

But today she suffers from high blood pressure and appears weak and she is unable to work.

For her, nothing much has changed.

During the apartheid years there were no services and people threw their rubbish in the streets.

Today the community has a few taps, but there is still no electricity, no refuse collection or other services.

Vuma also described the humiliation of having to beg to use toilets in nearby Q section - and for her this meant a five-minute walk from her shack.

Other residents of QQ section also said that people in Q section often locked their toilets and refused to allow people from QQ to use the facilities.

Vuma said: "There had been several promises to move the community."

"We went to our councillors and asked them, 'When will you move us?' but they didn't take any action.

"The city council didn't come to see how we live."

"Our councillors only come to us when they want our vote. We are just good enough to vote. After that they don't take care of us."

"I am not voting any more. I am finished, I didn't see what I am voting for, I am finished."

"They said that they will give you a better place. Where is it? I don't see it."

One section of QQ is known as the Waterfront: a vast puddle of water spread across several shacks.

In this area, residents have to use crates, bricks and old door frames to walk between the corrugated-iron and wood structures.

Here we found young children with purulent sores on their faces.

Ntombovuyo Mdibaniso, 12, said she hated staying in QQ section. She had a grim litany of reasons, including "unhealthy water", which affected children's health, she said.

"We don't even have toilets. We struggle when using toilets at Q section."

"It's embarrassing when friends visit and you have to beg for a key for a toilet."

Nomthandazo Giyama, 45, also cited the lack of services, including toilets and electricity, as a problem.

She pointed out that the community was situated in a "danger zone", with electricity pylons overhead that many members of the community used for illegal electric connections.

Children played in dirty water and they were often sick.

Giyama said: "We've been crying for such long years to our leaders and there has been no response."

"It seems that they don't care for us. We went to councillors and the mayor and there was no response. She refused to come out of the office.

"During the elections they seem to come here every time, but after they get our vote they don't look after us." - Staff Reporter

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