Bushes hide ‘forgotten community’

BATTLING TO SURVIVE: Bongani Nyati chops wood at the squatter camp concealed by bushes in Lorraine, Port Elizabeth Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
BATTLING TO SURVIVE: Bongani Nyati chops wood at the squatter camp concealed by bushes in Lorraine, Port Elizabeth

Still no relief in sight for residents of illegal squatter camp in Lorraine

They are in their very own words a “forgotten community” – about 100 families who are living in sheer squalor right in the middle of one of Port Elizabeth’s more upmarket neighbourhoods.

Hidden behind the thorn bushes not far from Lorraine’s manicured lawns and situated close to Circular Drive and the railway line, these poverty-stricken shack dwellers – many of whom have been here for more than two decades – do not have basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity.

They have been living in what they call “Madiba Village” under these conditions to be close to casual labour opportunities, even though the municipality had offered them the alternative of resettlement in Rocklands with proper homes and services.

Ashwel Baartman, 54, said he had been staying in the area for 24 years.

“We feel like the forgotten people of Nelson Mandela Bay. The only time we see officials here is during the voting season when they come to make empty promises,” he said.

“We would like to get proper houses and lead normal lives like other people.”

Elton Brits, 31, said: “Our conditions here are inhumane. We don’t have toilets and electricity.

“We relieve ourselves in the bushes. There is only one communal tap for all the people staying here.”

Most of the shacks are covered with plastic and the pallets used to build some of the homes are already rotten.

The shacks are surrounded by bushes, and are just a stone’s throw away from posh townhouses.

Zoliswa Mentoor, 36, said it was much easier for them to get casual jobs in the area.

“We moved [here] because we wanted to be closer to this area. Our situation is getting worse every day. “There were people who came here to register us for houses.

“We were even given house numbers, but it has since been quiet.”

Ward 8 councillor Gustav Rautenbach said the plight of the people from Madiba Village dated back to 2005.

“They were relocated by the municipality to the Seaview area but were chased away by the residents there,” he said.

“They were then relocated to St Albans but their [building] materials were burnt by the residents there and they ended up coming back here.”

“I engaged with human settlements and it was agreed that they would be moved to Rocklands. “They were going to get proper houses with services, but they refused to move at the last minute.”

“The municipality is looking at buying the area. They still have to appoint valuators . . . and a feasibility study must be carried out. “However, I must add that they are squatting illegally on private property – that is why they don’t have services.”

Human settlements assistant director Mthulisi Msimang said they were still investigating the possibility of buying the land with a view to developing it.

“Our executive director [ED] will have to table another report before the council which will specify the amount needed by the property owners,” Msimang said.

“The ED will also table a proposal on how we are going to develop those houses. “We are still in the preliminary stages of investigation.”

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