TWO bare mattresses and a bunk bed are crammed into a single room behind the Ladies Bar tavern in Mariannridge, west of Durban.
It’s the bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and living room for Lance Viljoen, his wife, two sons, mother-in-law and brother-in-law.
The 33-year-old points to one of two pit toilets outside the room that his family shares with more than 35 neighbouring families who live in similar conditions.
The stench of faeces and urine is swirling in the air.
Viljoen’s 4-year-old son is still infected with sores after falling into the toilet while playing with friends in August.
“I don’t see any hope for my sons here. How can we live like this?” he asks.
Viljoen and many of his neighbours across the settlement do not earn enough money to relieve them from this poverty.
On Tuesday, they threw flaming branches and tyres into the winding road to their settlement and tried in vain to take down the “Welcome to Mariannridge” sign.
They want the eThekwini Municipality to deliver on promises of housing.
Their anger was spurred when the city’s land invasion unit tore down shacks that had been built by those trying to escape the overcrowded living quarters of council flats and low-rent rooms - like Viljoen’s.
He has been working as a supply-chain supervisor for the past six months. The money the family earns is not enough to pay the more than R450 they pay to a private landlord at Mariannridge. “For my first 25 years, I lived in council flats. But we eventually had to leave. There were too many of us there,” he said.
At a council flat nearby, 58-year-old Theo Smith has been living there since birth.
“My family was moved here because of the Group Areas Act in 1977. No more council flats have been built since then, and we don’t even have a title deed. In all these flats, you’ll find generations of families living in the same house,” he said.
The two-bedroom flat houses 17 of Smith’s family.
“This is why our children are growing up to be drug addicts and drop-outs. How do you grow up in an environment like this that is so overcrowded? It’s affecting them. They’re turning to drugs and can’t get out,” said Sinead Marillier.
The 27-year-old mother of six was part of the group of residents who took the Sunday Tribune on walk about.
Marillier’s shack was demolished by municipality’s Land Invasion Unit this week.
“They came in without documents and destroyed everything. And they were happy to do it too. They said ‘you coloured people, you are dogs’,” Marillier claimed.
Her shack has been rebuilt with help from the community, and she continues living there with her children, aged between 1 and 9.
She had moved into the shack to escape the overcrowded rooms at the complex where Viljoen stays.
All three families have blamed their ward councillor, Reginal Cloete, Mayor Zandile Gumede, and the government which they claimed have been ignorant to their plight.
Viljoen said: “Our ward councillor doesn’t care to help us. He is so rude to us. They’ve been making promises since last year, and still want our votes.”
Smith said: “Get rid of this government. We are taking our land back no matter what.”
Marillier said: “The mayor promised to come here many times to see what we are going through she doesn’t even know how we are living.”
Cloete told the Sunday Tribune the construction of 500 RDP houses would start in January or February next year.
However, he was quoted in the media last year where he promised construction would begin in September 2017.
“That is true, there was a delay with the processes, and the contractor pulled out. We had to start the tender process again,” he said. “There is nothing like they don’t have a place to stay.
“I understand that there are people that are overcrowded in the flats. But they’ve been staying in those flats all along.
“So we cannot say that because shacks were demolished that they have nowhere to stay. They will stay where they were staying.”
He denied that the municipality has been turning a blind eye towards the community.
“The people of Mariannridge only want to take land, that is why they are bringing all these accusations. It s not fair because the same land they want to invade is where we promised to build 500 RDP houses,” he said.
The Department of Human Settlements has been looking into the incident where shacks were demolished, according to spokesperson Mbulelo Baloyi.