Zwelitsha shack-dwellers are building their own toilets and roads

When the hole is full‚ said Gcwabe‚ she pours in water mixed with disinfectant to reduce the smell‚ covers it with sand and then digs a new hole. “I have encircled the yard with a wooden plank enclosure to protect my belongings from thieves and to make residents see that this part of Zwelitsha belongs to me.”

“I don’t like to hear the footsteps of people who walk past my door while I’m lying in bed at night. The footsteps make me scared and uncomfortable‚” said Gcwabe. She said she plans to extend her shack in future.

Lindiwe Fenama‚ 39‚ lives with her husband and six-year-old son. She moved in three months ago to escape the monthly rent of R500 she was paying for a one-room shack in a nearby serviced area. “I’m glad that I have my own place.”

Fenama said her husband‚ a builder‚ built her shack with plyboard. “Now I’m buying second-hand corrugated iron cheap from roadside hardware shops to replace the ply boards. They become dripping wet when it rains‚” she said. “I will buy second-hand materials with the money I used to reserve for rent.”

She has dug a trench between her shack and her neighbour’s to dump old food‚ urine‚ grey water and her baby’s excrement. “If you dump rubbish among the shacks‚ it will cause a bad smell and invite flies. We don’t want dirt around our shacks‚” said Femana.

When GroundUp visited‚ she was using a rake to remove dead leaves and rubbish in front of her shack. She said shack-dwellers had resolved at a community meeting to remove some shacks to make way for a road into the settlement.

“The road will help paramedics and firefighters to drive into Zwelitsha‚ help sick people and put out fires‚” said Femana. She and other residents get water from the taps at the toilets in a nearby serviced site. She said the shack-dwellers wanted the City of Cape Town to give them toilets and communal water taps.

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