Residents waiting for services, 18 years later

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Residents of Cato Crest informal settlement in Cato Manor, Durban, are still living in abject poverty, 18 years after they were promised a better life.

The community, estimated at about 10000 people, moved back to their ancestral land in 1990 after their families were forcibly removed from the area during the apartheid era.

They were relocated to KwaMashu and surrounding townships.

Their land was for years occupied by Indian people, until the community moved back in 1990 and built shacks, which they still occupy today.

Though other areas at Mkhumbane have been partly developed, Cato Crest still lags behind.

The community was promised proper houses and developmen,t but those promises remain just that, promises.

Proper houses, clean water and sanitation are all a pipe dream.

The area is known for the 1949 Indian-African riots, the 1959 beerhall riots and the 1960 massacre of nine policemen.

Once a congested slum, it is now a peaceful but crowded informal settlement.

The residents say eThekwini Municipality has for years been playing hide and seek with the people.

The residents have on several occasions marched to the municipality's offices to voice their concerns that they were being neglected.

Sowetan visited the area yesterday after a severe storm.

The residents described the storm as the worst they had ever seen, saying they were thankful that they were still alive.

They were rebuilding their shacks and toilets that had been washed away.

They were worried that after all the hard work repairing the damage, it looked like more rain was on the way.

Residents say corrupt councillors have taken advantage of the situation by making residents pay to get an RDP house.

Residents say they had high hopes in 1999 when a European Union-funded project built a R15million multipurpose centre comprising a primary school, a secondary school, a community hall, a library and a sport centre.

Back then, service delivery was happening and monitored by the Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA).

Thembinkosi Qumbelo, chairman of the Rural Dwellers Organisation, said the municipality and the government had neglected the area and that unknown people had recently moved into the few houses that have been built.

"You have to have money to get a house, several people who stayed here paid to get houses and those without money remain here and watch people from outside occupy their homes," he said.

Alina Bulane, 55, came to Durban in 1995 to look for work, but is still unemployed.

"When I came here I stayed in this shack, hoping to find a proper place after I find work. It's been more than 10 years, I have no choice but to stay in this shack."

The spokesman for eThekwini Municipality, Nigel Gumede, was not available for comment.