By Mzukona Mantshontsho
On the remainder of portion 47 of the Farm Zandspruit 191 IQ on Beyer’s Naude’ Drive is a squatter camp as old as our democracy called Zandspruit Informal Settlement in the North of Johannesburg.
The informal settlement is marred by under-development, unemployment, poverty, health hazards in the form of illegal dumping by community members & companies nearby, the outside toilets are not emptied regularly, substance & drug abuse, illegal shebeens, crime, the non-delivery of housing and no electricity.
Zandspruit Informal Settlement falls under Ward 114 Region C of the City of Johannesburg and is an ANC led informal settlement. Ward 114 comprises of places like Northgate, Northriding, Honeydew, Sundowner, Randpark Ridge and Zandspruit Informal Settlement lags behind in terms of development.
With an estimated population of +/- 100,000, half of which is unemployed, 38% foreign nationals, another portion of the population having had RDP houses provided to them from other areas: making it 75% of this population not qualifying for RDP houses.
The view is that there is a serious need for a mindset shift from community members and the leadership in Zandspruit to see the need for change in the community. This should be followed by meaningful public consultation and the leadership, so that Zandspruit Informal Settlement can have one voice behind the councillor and get the much-needed services delivered.
It was encouraging to be drawn into the confidence of the Realeboga Community Development Project steering committee, the leadership of the Realeboga Early Childhood Development Centre and the Zamula Community Network Centre Management.
Having received a 99-year lease of land from the City of Johannesburg in 1994, the Realeboga Community Development Project, the community and the Crocodile Valley Trust started out with the first phase of the project.
“Having done needs assessment research of the about 40,000 residents in 1994 in Zandspruit, the safety of children while their parents were at work became priority, hence Margaret Matiwane-Miya, leader of community and educator said they approached the Independent Development Trust (IDT) for a grant to have an early childhood development centre. Collaboration between the IDT and the National Department of Public Works gave the community a R1.5million grant to have the pre-primary school at the Zandspruit Clinic where they had five volunteers and around 110 learners”.
“Realeboga Early Childhood Development centre together with the around 20 EDC’s in the community caters for 211 learners with 19 educators and support staff to run the facility at R340 per month. The facility is subsidies by the Provincial Department of Social Development as the facility caters for child-headed households, children living elderly guardians and unemployed parents. So, depending on the need and circumstance, some of the children pay half the amount and the department pays the rest,” said School Principal Rebecca Matiwane.
Zamula Community Network was registered in 2003 as Lanseria Community Network and renamed in 2006 to its present name. Zamula Community Network moved its areas of responsibility to Zandspruit Informal settlements to offer services like social programmes (offering blankets for the needy, providing nappies and clothes, vegetable and food parcels, provision of a place for a vegetable garden, assisting shack dwellers, HIV/AIDS & substance abuse awareness campaigns and workshops, business and technical skills(computer end-user training, cashier training, life skills training, welding) and entrepreneurship development.
Phase two of the Realeboga Community Development Project:
“With help from government and the private sector, in the land we have:
We plan to set up a community centre with up to six retail shops (a butchery, bakery, vegetable shop, beauty salon, internet cafe’ and laundry service),
We plan to have a Senior Citizen day-care-centre with soup kitchen on a weekly basis,
We plan to have two community meeting halls,
Informal Traders will be allowed into the premises with shelter so they can operate in bad weather, and
A small office block.
“The Realeboga Community Development Project is there to continuously support Zandpruit, create awareness of plights faced by the community, strive to establish funding through income generating projects and improve relationships with long-term funders,” said the Zamula Community Network.
All the sections in the informal settlement do have water; unfortunately, some of the water pipes are stolen by community members, which begs the question of where accountability will come from. Street committees are there in the community, but the theft seems to be happening regardless.
In line with the vision of the South African Department of Health of, ‘A Long and Healthy Life for ALL South Africans’, and following the first official launch of “Healthy Lifestyles in South Africa” on Saturday 4 May 2013 at Thokoza Park in Soweto, stressing the fact that prevention is better than cure, Emthonjeni Community Centre, in Zandspruit Informal Settlement is there to provide community members with various health screenings, counselling services, measles and polio immunisations, HIV/AIDS testing and counselling, Tuberculosis(TB) education and Non-communicable diseases information sessions.
Proper sanitation is a major concern as the outside toilets are not emptied regularly by the City of Johannesburg. Housing is a serious talking point. Between 1995 and 2000, efforts by the then ANC Ward Councillor Sithole working closely with the community leadership, bore fruit with the RDP houses that were built in plots 58 and 70.
The last violent mass action was on Wednesday 13 June 2012, was clear that it was not about service delivery, but about removing the ward councillor, adding that the memorandum that was delivered on the day to the office of the then Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi, was a cover up of the real intentions of the leadership, which was to remove the ward councillor. Prior to the mass action in the previous year, the community had been told of 7500 RDP houses that were in the pipeline. With proper community involvement, the community being vigilant not to add to the existing numbers into the informal settlement, blocking the way for essential service providers like the sewage trucks to have access and clean the VIP toilets introduced in 2005, housing and toilets will remain a problem.
The Zamula Community Network concluded: “I plead with government and the private sector to do something for Zandspruit Informal Settlement – let’s all help the community. Let us not wait until there are service delivery marches in the area. The burning down of the Siyanceda Laundry should be a wake-up call to all that Zandspruit needs help”.
The additional numbers that increase daily into the informal settlement are as a result of the community and the leadership not working together to monitor who comes in and why they are there. This also makes it difficult to provide the much-needed basic services of housing and electricity in the community.
The only sources of employment are the retail shops in Zandspruit, around Cosmo City, the Kya Sand Industrial area, and as far as the Randburg CBD to those who have the skill. Unemployment in the area is quite high and there is a major influx of people who are unemployable because they are other foreign national with no proper residential documentation, or they have no skill to add value to any of the businesses around the area.
It is encouraging though to know that Honeydew Community Connect is an organisation that was formed to address the other socio-economic challenges in the area. Honeydew Community Connect has meetings for service providers in and around Ward 114 every month, which covers Northgate, Northriding, Sundowner, Randpark Ridge and Zandspruit Informal Settlement.
One of the compelling conversations for Honeydew Community Connect is the concern around safety, the housing issue and sanitation in Zandspruit informal settlement for women, children and the unemployed youth involved in drugs, alcohol and substance abuse and the community at large suffering from poverty and under-development.
Street lights are not always working because of the illegal electricity connections. This has given birth to the increase in crime and rape cases at night, all of these that could be avoided. The illegal shebeens are another source of crime elements when people are intoxicated and out of control. Drug concoction ‘Nyaope’ is rife in the area, and residents even know the places that sell the drug, but there are no structures to do away with this bad habit in the area, affecting the youth and increasing theft for these young people to feed their bad habits. There is relief that there is a police station next to the informal settlement.
Zandspruit Informal Settlement is as old as our democracy and the fact that 29 years down the line, we still have concerns around housing, unemployment, under-development, poverty, crime, drug & substance abuse, crime and no electricity. There is a serious need for the current leadership to work together with the councillor and not against to deliver services.