Johannesburg – Survivors of the tragic Marshalltown Fire, which occurred last year and resulted in the loss of more than 70 lives, are currently contending with the recent heavy rains in Johannesburg.
According to Mametlwe Sebei, the President of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA), the flooding in the Denver Informal Settlement is attributed to its location. He mentioned that the settlement is situated in a basin where water accumulates.
Before the city established the settlement, relevant organisations, activists and residents raised concerns about this issue, and the municipality acknowledged them. They agreed to install a drainage system to prevent flooding and ensure residents’ safety during heavy rains.
Unfortunately, the municipality failed to implement the drainage system, leading to ongoing hardships for the residents.
“To this day, the municipality has not complied. What we have seen since the relocation of this community in November, we have just seen a repeat of flooding after the other. For this community, it’s been tragedy upon tragedy.”
Municipality Fails to Deliver on Promised Safety Measures
Sebei revealed that this agreement with the municipality was part of a broader court order, which included provisions for the community to have access to electricity, water tanks, and ablution facilities.
The municipality was mandated to comply within six months, but they still need to do so. Consequently, residents spanning various age groups continue to suffer losses in property, livelihood, and dignity.
Sebei attributes the lack of urgency to the government’s attitude toward the working and poor classes in South African society. He condemns the government for displaying apathy towards them.
“It’s a real tragedy, and people should not underestimate its impact. We think this speaks to a government indifferent to the pride and the suffering of the poor and contempt for the working class.”
However, this issue extends beyond the Denver Informal Settlement. It reflects a more significant housing crisis affecting citizens in informal settlements, the inner cities and the country.
Therefore, GIWUSA calls on the government to establish a mass housing program to address these challenges and provide permanent housing solutions for its people.
“All of these shacks that you see across the City of Johannesburg, many of them were meant to be temporary accommodation. But temporary with this government is actually permanent.”