Informal Settlements A Dilemma In Hime Street

In the past five or six years, there has been an emergence of an informal settlement in Hime Street which has now become a crisis and a  burden to the residents of Hime Street.

It is a maze of tightly packed, dilapidated shacks and makeshift structures made from plastic, wood and anything that can provide shelter from the elements. The surroundings are strewn with rubbish with no garbage collection, no drainage, toilets or running water. Some of the dwellings are constructed from fragile, recycled metals that are not secured to a permanent foundation.

When the current government assumed power in 1994, the majority of South Africans, particularly disadvantaged ones in the black, Indian  and Coloured community believed that life would change for the better and service delivery, particularly for essential services, with housing at the apex, would be improved. They believed that the unequal and separate coexistence of population groups across the country, which was inextricably connected with the structure and functionality of the previous government regime, would finally come to an end. This was heightened by the government’s promises of the provision of free housing and free basic services which encouraged an entitlement mentality and a dependability syndrome that reduced rather than encouraged an impetus to self-help  and causing an exponential surge in the expectation of free benefits from government .

Due to overcrowding, unemployment, housing shortage, migration from rural areas, and various other reasons, these informal settlements have been formed.

The correlation of drug addiction and malnutrition is apparent, while tuberculosis and other communicable diseases are a cause for concern in conditions where pathogens are easily spread. A number of preschool children are infected with Natal Sores (impetigo) which  is a highly contagious type of skin infection caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. It is characterised by inflamed blisters that pop, weep and form crusts.There is also a high incidence of truancy.

Kim Saul’s 30, and Marion Jacobs 34, said because of the absence of toilets and running water, they have to use packets in which to defecate, and buy drinking water from the flat residents.

Annette Sauls 48, says that she has been on the housing waiting list since 1977, and, as her mother’s flat  became overcrowded, she had no alternative but to move into the informal settlement. Her living conditions are contributing towards her deteriorating health.

Jennifer Slinger, says that during the incessant rainy seasons, most of the homes are affected, as they have not been maintained for decades.

One may argue as to whether these people are helpless victims of their circumstances, or whether they have developed an entitlement mentality and dependability syndrome, but there is no denying that this is a dilemma in Hime Street.

By: Lorraine Richards

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