Blame game between levels of government leave the poor without services

Endlovini residents standing near the remnants of a burnt shack which fire claimed two lives recently. It is believed that a primus stove was the cause of the fire. Photo by Joseph Chirume

Colchester in the Eastern Cape is a true reflection of South Africa. You have the rich living in townhouses and not so far you have Endlovini Informal Settlement that has poor services because political parties are busy politicking.

Colchester, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Party politicking and a blame game involving the Nelson Mandela Metro (NMBM), the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements and the Housing Development Agency continues to be one of the reasons for poor services in Endlovini near Colchester.

Colchester is a small town located about 40 kilometres from Port Elizabeth. The sleepy town’s economy is only activated by a string of lodges that form a bee line along the confluence of the Sundays River with the Indian Ocean. Apart from a busy petrol station and a Spar shop next to the N2 highway, life is dull in Colchester.

The luxurious lodges that are weaved together with a handful of exquisite houses mistakenly exudes an air of opulence, making strangers feel all is well in this town.

However, a few meters away from this scene, and hidden at the foot of a small cliff that is clearly visible from the N2  highway, lives a small community of squatters.

This is a small group of less than one hundred  men and women. Their story is sad to listen to. Some residents are part-time labourers in the lodges but the rest have resorted to alcohol consumption as a way to drown their sorrow and poverty.

There are no toilets and electricity. They share one communal water tap. The place sees a mobile clinic visit once a week.

Wanele Jibiliza, a street committee member, says they have held many meetings with the municipality to no avail. He said, “We need an urgent intervention for the people of Colchester. The municipality should build toilets and access roads because the place is muddy when it is raining. “

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Another community leader, Godfrey Jacobs reinforced what Wanele said: “The government should provide land for houses. When Danny Jordaan was mayor, he promised to buy land around here to relocate the people of Endlovini. Now Athol Trollip should fulfil this but from my assessment, he is developing cold feet because most of the landowners are wealthy white people, some coming from outside of the province at the expense of locals.”

NMBM mayoral spokesman, Sibongile Dimbaza said, “The municipality has no mandate to build houses as this falls under the Housing Development Agency (HDA) as the implementing agency. Our goal is to ensure that we place people in areas where there’s full infrastructure so that we do away with the bucket system.”

Zingaphi Mathanzima of the HDA said, “The HDA is only an implementing agent for the Department of Housing. The onus is with the municipality to identify their projects and deal with the province. Then only can we carry out the job.”

EC Department of Human Settlements spokesman, Lwandile Sicwetsha said, “The department works on the basis of project submission or requests from the municipality. It is their responsibility to initiate a project, then submit written requests to the province.”

Residents of Colchester’s small informal settlement say politicians are only interested in their votes while they wallow in poverty. They accuse successive municipal administrators of only visiting their settlement when it is time for elections in order to get voted into office.

Nomvuyo Kweta (53) said she was the first occupant of the settlement more than a decade ago.

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She explained, “I came here alone in search of employment. I was then joined by most of the people. We have been continuously promised houses. Most of Colchester’s RDP houses were built in 2010 but Ndlovini didn’t benefit. “

“We don’t have basic services like toilets and electricity. We have had numerous meetings where we begged the municipality to supply us with the bucket system. We have to use the bush around us to relieve ourselves. It is dangerous to do so because of wild animals as we share a boundary fence with Addo National Park. There are lots of poisonous snakes in that bush. It is also not healthy because there are small children who can fall sick easily. “

Nomvuyo lives with her husband who is also unemployed.

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About Joseph Chirume 46 Articles
I was born in the shoe manufacturing town of Gweru in Zimbabwe,1970. I came to South Africa and did some odd jobs before writing for a number of publications. At present I am doing a Masters in Journalism through distance learning.