Langa centenary nothing to celebrate for hostel residents

The City of Cape Town says it is committed to hostel transformation but residents have seen no improvement in their living conditions. All photos by Mzi Velapi

Hostel residents in Langa say they are tired of empty promises of houses and failure to maintain the hostels by the authorities.

Hostel residents of Langa find no joy in celebrating 100 years of the township’s founding as their living conditions deteriorate with each passing year. Langa is the oldest township in Cape Town. Built for men during the apartheid era, the hostels in Langa now shelter many families, in some cases three in one house.

The hostel residents told Elitsha that they have lost count of how many times they have been promised houses by authorities and have been asked to explain their living conditions. “Our safety is compromised; the door at the dining room is broken, the only way to myself is if I lock my room’s door,” said Khululwa Tsholoba who has lived in Zone 18 for seven years.

The hostel that Tsholoba lives in with her family does not have a proper flushing toilet, and they have to use a bucket to flush it. According to Tsholoba, the hostel was marked as burnt by the City of Cape Town, so the facilities do not receive proper maintenance – hence the lack of running water.

Another hostel about a kilometre from Tsholoba’s hostel is home to the Mayekiso family. The KwaNabe hostel, according to Daniswa Mayekiso was home to workers of the popular Nabe supermaket in Langa. Unlike the Tsholobas, the Mayekiso family does not share the house with other families. “I have lived here since 1989. I am currently unemployed; only two people here work but it is only part time,” she said.

Hostel residents say that they have to wait for long to have the city attend to maintenance issues.

Ward councillor Lwazi Phakade said that there is nothing to celebrate for most residents, especially those who live in hostels. Phakade told Elitsha that perhaps it should be a commemoration of the existence of the township instead of a ‘celebration’. The City of Cape Town is neglecting black and coloured people townships, he said, and when the mayor visits Langa, he visits only partially established places far from the broken scenes hidden from the eyes of the public.

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“There are no current prospects of improving the lives of people living in hostels. No one deserves to live in such an environment, where crime, violence – especially gun violence – is at its peak,” said Phakade.

Leader of the hostels and ward committee, Mvuyisi Komsane says that some years back, the city built phase 1 of the Hamilton Naki flats for hostel and flat residents and promised to build phase 2 but they have been waiting ever since. “Hostels are not suitable to house anyone, especially families as there is no privacy,” said Komsane.

According to the City of Cape Town, it is committed to hostel transformation and that much work has been done over the years already. Discussions with the Western Cape government and the national department of human settlements are “ongoing”, with a view to secure funding for the programme. The City added that the flats undergo maintenance “as needed”.

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