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squatters sue council

By Katlego Moeng | Jul 28, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Residents of Harry Gwala informal settlement near Wattville in Benoni have been battling the Ekurhuleni municipality in the South Gauteng high court since December last year to get services in their area.

"On December 12 last year the court ruled that the municipality must instal seven taps in the area and start collecting rubbish," said Paseka Lihlabi, the chairperson of the Landless People's Organisation in the settlement.

"But they only installed two taps and since giving us dustbins and a collection calendar just before the elections nothing has materialised."

He said the community lost a bid to have electricity installed in the area in January at a hearing they were not allowed to attend.

"We have no electricity and Lihlabi said is totally dark at night.

"We have no proper toilets. This place is filthy because there is no rubbish removal. More than 500 households have to share two taps for water.

"Basically we have no services. We have to constantly fight for what government is supposed to be giving us.

"We have been fighting for so long that some people feel like throwing in the towel.

"The government is fighting against us in court.

"It is a shame that we, poor people, are being forced to take the government to court to get what we voted for.

"All these things that we are fighting for now are things they promised us to get our votes,"

Now Moray Hathorn, head of the pro bono practice group at law firm Webber Wentzel, is acting for the informal settlement in the Constitutional Court in a bid to help the community get basic sanitation.

The outcome of the case might set a nationwide precedent about the right to basic sanitation for people living in informal settlements.

Hathorn said proper sanitation was even more important than personal hygiene and water quality in the prevention of gastric illnesses and other diseases.

In other rural settlements in South Africa where sanitation has been provided, anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a dramatic improvement in the health of those in the area as the incidence of gastric illnesses and skin ailments drop.

On Tuesday last week, residents of Thokoza's Mkhathili informal settlement and nearby hostels on Khumalo Street took to the streets in violent protests against inadequate services.

They said they were tired of waiting for services, vowing to continue with the protests until their grievances are addressed.

Ekurhuleni mayor Ntombi Mekgwe yesterday said the municipality had financial constraints and the courts should bear that in mind in its rulings.


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