Cosmo City residents decry stench from faulty drains

Over population and poor planning are partly to blame for Cosmo City's woes according to a human rights activist. Photo by Chris Gilili

Residents of Cosmo City say they have contended with overflowing sewage for the last 4 years.

Overflowing drains, smelly water and unattended waste is what residents of Extension 4 in Cosmo City have been subjected to for almost a year now. “We have been having issues with these overflowing drains, especially since last year. We have reported it to the councillor. She just doesn’t care about these issues, maybe it’s because she doesn’t even stay here…

“I run a food business here inside my house. The smell reeks all the way into our yard everyday. Even my customers complain while waiting for food. Sometimes we have opted to ask a local handyman to help us stop the overflowing water, but it is not working because the blockage persists,” said Nokhaya Mthombi who has been a resident in Ext 4 since 2011. He says their right to live like dignified human beings seems ignored by the government.

Cosmo City was established in 2005 and is situated not far from Lanseria airport. Most of the residents are people who were taken out of squalor in townships such as Sgodiphola in Soweto and Diepsloot. Then human settlements minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, said the suburb was a place of hope that had been set up to give people an opportunity to live a meaningful existence. 

Cosmo City has had issues with leaking and burst drains for a while now, dating back to at least 2017. The South African Constitution enshrines that everyone has a right to a basic supply of water and sanitation services. However, in Cosmo, residents live a different reality. 

The overflowing sewer does not only affect Mthombi and his customers. Patience Tshiendewulu comes from Limpopo; she has also stayed in Cosmo since 2017 and says as long as she can remember the drains have been a big issue together with the permanent problems with electricity that the area continues to experience. “The smell from the drains is very hard to bear, even if you are passing by. It’s worse for me because I stay nearby. I have children who sometimes play around this overflowing drain. We don’t even know what infections one might get here. We have tried to talk about our concerns to the local committees around here, and the councillor has been asked to come and see our dire situation, but I have never even seen him even once. It’s really inhumane to breathe the stink everyday,” said Tshiendewulu.

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Human rights activist, advocate Mahladi Muofhe told Elitsha that the situation of blocked drains in Cosmo City is unfortunately beyond the control of the City of Johannesburg. “The issue has been there for a couple of years now. I was also once vocal about it and assisted residents to address their concerns. The City of Johannesburg has attended to it back then because it was very bad. It was so extensive that as a result the whole corner of Republic and Central Africa roads was like a river, filled with smelly water,” said Muofhe.

According to him, the problem keeps recurring because people were given their RDP houses without any accountability. He also alleges that many people in the area just build or extend their houses without proper approvals from the City.

“The houses were just built and there was no proper regulation of the owners. The sewer drainage system also didn’t accommodate the fact that the population will grow. There are a lot of buildings that keep cropping up. That [sewer] system was never designed for that. It was bound to break anyway. There is absolutely no control of the situation there,” said Muofhe.

Attempts to get a comment from ANC councillor for ward 100, Mapula Mosito, were unsuccessful by the time of publication.

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About Chris Gilili 31 Articles
Chris Gilili, a 23 year old freelance journalist based in East London. Graduated from Walter Sisulu University media studies school in 2015. Had a stint with Independent Media, in sports writing. Passionate about news and the media.