Informal settlements’ projects halted amid virus fears

Electric poles erected for a project in Kwazakhele which has been halted since the lockdown
Electric poles erected for a project in Kwazakhele which has been halted since the lockdown
Image: WERNER HILLS

Two projects to provide sanitation, water and electricity to some of Kwazakhele’s informal settlements have been halted since the Covid-19 lockdown.

The projects, one to install electricity, had seen a contractor already working, while the second for sanitation and water was close to having a contractor hired but this was put on hold.

Residents said the lack of work would likely increase the spread of the virus to the Ekuphumleni and Enkuthazweni Nkatha Seyisi settlements.

When The Herald visited Ekuphumleni on Tuesday, a contractor had started to put up electric lines to the sites.

Now low-lying illegal electric connections cover the area.

“Since the lockdown started everything has been has stopped,” Lindile Solantsi, 47, said.

“Our lives were well on the way to being improved but now that we have this virus we are stuck.

“I thought because the government was telling us to stay at home it would try to make the stay in our homes better.

“I’m self-employed as a videographer and photographer, and I often worry that my equipment is not safe as the electricity we use is now an illegal connection,” he added.

Nofandile Tontsi, 65, said she lived in constant fear.

“If one person were to get Covid-19 here, all of us would get it because we are still using bucket toilets.

Ward 19 councillor, Gama Maqula, shows The Herald the illegal connections that are in his ward, this comes after two projects to provide sanitation, water and electricity to some of Kwazakhele’s informal settlements have been halted since the Covid-19 lockdown.
Ward 19 councillor, Gama Maqula, shows The Herald the illegal connections that are in his ward, this comes after two projects to provide sanitation, water and electricity to some of Kwazakhele’s informal settlements have been halted since the Covid-19 lockdown.
Image: Naziziphiwo Buso

“Another worry is that my grandchild who is in matric has been told to study online and on TV.

“How will they do that without electricity?” she asked.

Another resident, Nelson Chophela, 66, said he had hoped the R150 he paid monthly for an electric connection from a nearby house would be cut.

“We are renting at a house nearby but I am sure we use far less electricity than that set R150.

“I think the municipality should allow this contract to conclude because we do not know how long we will be in lockdown for,” he said.

Ward councillor  Gama Maqula said he had written to acting city manager Noxolo Nqwazi about the halted projects.

Maqula said the halt of the critical projects was hampering the livelihoods of the residents.

In the letter, Maqula said his ward had the budget for provision of water and sanitation, and requested that the budget be used as he was not sure when the lockdown would end.

“I recommend and plead that the acting city manager gives a directive that the contractor who was on site providing electricity be instructed to continue.”

However, Nqwazi said the priority of the metro was to keep residents safe.

“We have received more of these requests from different ward councillors requesting that their contracts continue.

“At the moment I have requested information from the various project managers from those projects but the priority is to keep people at home.

“When you call one contractor, you call all the contractors throughout the metro.

“They then will bring labourers as well and that poses a risk of infection to those people as well as their families, Nqwazi said.

“If we want to continue with projects, we have to bring back employees, administrative staff and project managers, and with the increasing numbers in the metro and being the epicentre of the virus in the Eastern Cape, we do not want to act irresponsibly,” she said.

“We are looking at various options to ensure that service staff are provided with basic services.”

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