Jack Bloom MPL
DA Gauteng Caucus Leader
The ANC should fix up dreadful conditions in Lethabong informal settlement east of Pretoria instead of threatening the DA as they did yesterday when I visited there and stayed the night.
About 200 ANC members were bussed in from other areas to demonstrate against my visit. I was not threatened, but they stoned a Daily Sun reporter and broke her camera.
Local residents welcomed me and I spent a peaceful night in the shack of Mr Walter Mtombeni, the chairperson of the Concerned Residents Group (CRG)
This was my 21st visit as part of the DA’s “Don’t forget the forgotten” campaign in which I visit deprived communities one day a month and stay the night to experience conditions there. I was accompanied by local DA Constituency Head Les Labuschagne and DA councillors Abel Ngwenya, Andre van der Walt and Magic Mampuru.
The CRG was formed in October last year to protest poor conditions in Lethabong, including lack of toilets and water.
There are more than 2000 shacks in Lethabong, which was established in October 2010 to resettle people after court-ordered evictions in nearby farms.
The Tshwane council put in 40 non-flush toilets with a container to catch the waste.
There are far too few toilets and they are heavily used with waste building up that gives off a terrible smell. But the council has only sucked out the waste once, and left it outside to the huge dissatisfaction of residents.
There are 21 water tanks, but they often run dry as they are not regularly filled. Residents try not to drink from it as it makes them sick.
There was no water the night I stayed there because the tanks had run out.
The easy solution for the toilets is to use a new product called Pit Fix. This is a powder that is sprinkled in the toilet once a month that consists of bacteria that eats the waste and sanitizes it.
I administered this product to 15 smelly toilets and the DA will assist residents to make more use of this product. We will pressure the Tshwane council to use it as well as it only costs about R20 a month.
The water problem should be solved by installing taps from the water pipes in the nearby industrial area.
The broader problem is poor planning to settle people on land with proper services.
I visited the Skierlik informal settlement across the railway line from Lethabong. It’s called Skierlik (which means “suddenly”) because people were “suddenly” settled there after evictions on 31 August 2008. Again, there are poor services for about 450 shacks.
Further east I visited Kanana informal settlement which has been on private land for more than 10 years. A court has ordered their eviction and given the council until mid-June to come up with options for resettlement.
All these areas fell under the old Kungwini council which was notoriously corrupt and mismanaged, but they now fall under the Tswane Metro Council which has largely failed to resettle people rationally with better services in better areas.
Charges have been laid against ANC-linked people who illegally sold stands to people in Lethabong, but no action has been taken apparently because of political protection.
I was told that stands in Lethabong are still being sold illegally for as much as R16000.
The illegal sales need to be stopped with effective law enforcement, and action taken against the perpetrators regardless of their political ties.
The council should buy the land of neighbouring farmers who are willing to sell, and should provide proper services to people who live there.
Title deeds should be given to Lethabong residents, which will be a real economic boost to them.
Residents also request a local clinic as the mobile clinic only comes one morning a week and the nearest other clinic is eight kilometres away.
The growth in informal settlements is inevitable, and it needs to be managed properly so that basic services are available and upgrading can occur.
The ANC cynically targets areas like Lethabong with food parcels when elections come up, but people are increasingly seeing through the false promises and looking to the DA as an alternative.
The ANC demonstration in Lethabong using people bussed in from outside showed their weakness and their fear that they are losing votes to the DA.
After a freezing cold night in Lethabong I left determined to assist the residents to improve their lives.