Informal settlements: overpopulation and vandalism impede service delivery

Puleng Mopeli, Johannesburg Water spokesperson.Image:file

Puleng Mopeli, Johannesburg Water spokesperson.Image:file

Published Jan 26, 2023


By: Puleng Mopeli

With Gauteng being the economic hub of South Africa, it is no surprise that people from outside provinces flock to the region every year in search of greener pastures.

Thousands come from rural areas to the City of Gold looking for employment and schooling opportunities for their children. (This is evident when considering the problem of overcrowding at Gauteng schools.) According to Statistics SA, Gauteng had the largest influx of migrants, with approximately 1 564 861 people moving to the province between 2016 and 2021, Gauteng had approximately 15.81 million dwellers.

With an influx of people constantly coming into a city, the issue of housing and spatial planning inevitably arises, which results in the mushrooming of informal settlements. Johannesburg has over 300 recognised informal settlements, a number that continues to grow every day.

So, the demand for services eventually begins to outweigh the available resources.

Of course, the City of Johannesburg is constantly working to address these issues through its strategic agenda that is focused on socio-economic development.

While Johannesburg Water remains committed to fulfilling its mandate of providing quality water and sanitation services to the residents of Johannesburg, there are certain processes that, unfortunately, affect the turnaround time for the delivery of services.

The most important factor to consider is the city’s procurement process. Before Johannesburg Water begins any kind of infrastructure development and repairs, the entity receives instruction from the City of Johannesburg through its Integrated Development Plan (IDP). The city’s IDP maps out the future of the municipality in terms of its economic development and spatial-planning needs and goals, among other mandates.

Regarding implementation of basic services, before any work begins, the needs of the community are identified by the city’s Human Settlements Department, which plans and prioritises projects for implementation.

The implementation of some of the basic water and sanitation projects by the Human Settlements Department (HSD) is done by Johannesburg Water through a request from the HSD. Johannesburg Water follows a procurement process to appoint service providers for the implementation of the basic water and sanitation projects prioritised for implementation by HSD. The Johannesburg Water design and procurement process may take at least six months to finalise.

To continue delivering services to residents, Johannesburg Water makes alternative provision of nominal services in the form of stationary water tankers. We do this to ensure that people aren’t left without basic services.

Hence, Johannesburg Water provides water and sanitation facilities in the form of stationary water tankers, which are filled daily via mobile water tanks, and chemical toilets, which are serviced twice a week.

Yet, certain external challenges impede on the entity’s ability to do its work. Just last week on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 January, two of Johannesburg Water’s trucks were prevented by community workers from delivering water in Orange Farm Extension 2 and Ennerdale Extension 1.

Community members threatened to burn down the trucks if they continued to fill up the tanks. Consequently, and taking into consideration the safety of Johannesburg Water and the service provider employees, a decision was taken to temporarily stop the trucks from filling up water at the aforementioned filling points.

As a result of this unfortunate incident service delivery to these informal settlements came to a standstill.

Furthermore, there are cases of infrastructure vandalism where the lids of the water tankers are stolen, resulting in dirt entering the tanks and contaminating the water. This is a major challenge and as a result, Johannesburg Water replaces water tanker lids on a weekly basis, particularly in Orange Farm Extension 2 and Ennerdale Extension 1.

These are just some of the factors that influence not only the turnaround time for service delivery, but the maintenance of those facilities.

Nonetheless, Johannesburg Water continues to work towards efficiently executing the City of Johannesburg’s mandate and vision of creating a city that is well governed and developed and prides itself on service excellence.