Wattville Hostel residents encircled in squalor

An unbearable stench of sewage overflow, piles of uncollected rubbish and flies greet you as you enter the Wattville Hostel in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, where about 5000 men and women live.

Some have lived in the hostel for as long as 15 years and not much has changed.

According to the DA's human settlements shadow minister, Mbulelo Bara, the hostel is one of many that the government committed to converting into family units after 1994.

"This has not happened since then. R3.5-million was budgeted for general maintenance for the hostel over two recent financial years, yet there was no improvements," said Bara, who went on an inspection at the hostel yesterday.

"We have been living here for 15 years," resident Siyabonga Mgaga told Sowetan's sister publication, TimesLIVE. "The only change we have seen is running water which we started getting last year. We share communal taps. We don't have running water inside the hostels."

Mgaga moved to the hostel when he got a job in the area. However, he no longer works and is one of thousands of unemployed hostel dwellers living in Wattville.

"We know we are going to see a lot of politicians around this time because it is close to elections. They always come and promise to get us out of this mess, but nothing ever happens," Mgaga said.

The ANC said in a statement last year that interim relief regarding service delivery challenges was being arranged. The ruling party also indicated that the Gauteng government was considering redeveloping the hostel in phases from next year.

Currently, a portion of the hostel appears to have been renovated, while the rest remains in a dilapidated state.

The windows are broken and have been replaced with either iron sheets or plastic. In one section, there are two portable toilets which, according to Mgaga, have not been serviced for the past three weeks.

"These are not conducive conditions to live in. We are forced to use these toilets, even though they are full and stink. We have now resorted to collecting our rubbish because the municipality does not come and collect or clean up," said Mgaga.

A tour to another section of the hostel took reporters to a dark building with no sunlight coming through.

The kitchen only has a table on which a two-plate stove sits. There is another locker-type structure, where pots and groceries are stored.

There is no door to the bathroom. The shower taps are broken. The makeshift shower curtain is a black plastic sheet hanging over the stall.

In one of the rooms, there are three beds. Under each bed is a mattress, where other dwellers sleep.

"You can get about eight people sleeping in one room," said a man who did not want to be identified.

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