Disabled woman lives in a cardboard shack on a filthy hill

Poverty haunts Centerton, on the edge of the citrus town of Hankey

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Photo of disabled woman and her friend in front of pit toilet
Johanna Joggem (left) and Vanessa Josiah in front of the makeshift toilet in Centerton informal settlement. Joggem cannot use the toilet because of her disability. Photo: Joseph Chirume

A disabled woman is living in squalor with no one to look after her in the small citrus town of Hankey in the Eastern Cape. She spends most of her time in bed and struggles to go out to the bush to relieve herself.

Johanna Joggem is one of nearly 50 shackdwellers living in dire poverty in Centerton informal settlement, Hankey.

The settlement is on a hill overlooking a vast valley where oranges and lemons are grown in abundance.

Joggem, 41, came to Centerton from the Karoo in 2010, in the hope of finding work in the citrus plantations.

“A friend of mine brought me here. But I failed to get work because of my disability,” she says.

She lost her left leg to gangrene in 2009 and with it her hopes of a normal life.

“I am living in pain and fear.The doctors told me that the right leg might also have to be amputated soon because it is showing signs of the disease.”

She has no family left in the Karoo.

Centerton informal settlement has no running water or toilets. Some residents use makeshift pit toilets and some use the bush. Human waste is scattered all over the hilltop.

Joggem says the local councillor gave her wooden material for a toilet but she cannot use it because the seat is too high. She tries to walk to the nearby bushes to relieve herself. Her friend, Vanessa Josiah, comes to help when she can, but she lives 20 minutes away.

Josiah, 24, appealed to the municipality to provide Joggem with a house. She says Joggem is getting a disability grant but needs “love and care”.

“At times I am occupied and unable to come and help her. I am always fearing for her life. She uses a paraffin stove which can explode if blown by wind.”

Joggem cannot fetch water from the tanks on top of the hill which serve the town of Hankey and from which the shackdwellers take water, says Josiah.

“She desperately needs some help.”

Joggem’s shack is made from cardboard boxes and plastic sheets.

Johanna Joggem fears that her cardboard and plastic shack may be destroyed by the wind. Photo: Joseph Chirume

“This place has lots of wind. It also rains often. I am always fearing for my life when there is wind. The plastics are not strong and they can be blown away any time.”

There is a strong smell of human waste and also a smell and flies from the cattle and goat kraals nearby, she says.

“It is just unhealthy here.”

Estelle Sochi, 63, lives with her two young grandchildren in a small shack.

“I came here from Butterworth in 2012 after my daughter got a job on one of the surrounding farms. She died two years ago and I took charge of her two children. We are just desperate here. There is no future for my grandchildren because my old age grant is too little for their upkeep.

“We were told by the municipality that we don’t qualify for RDP houses because we don’t originate from Hankey.”

Hankey ward councillor Xolisile Persent confirmed that the residents did not qualify for RDP houses because they were not from Hankey. ”They also settled there illegally,” said Persent.

“We have a housing problem here but we are in the process of compiling a list for a new housing project. The project will start in August after the local municipal elections. Hopefully, there will be a new councillor who may consider people like Joggem,” said Persent.

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TOPICS:  Disability Rights Housing

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