Fed-up with waiting, residents of informal settlement sort out their own water supply

Santini community in Butterworth remain without electricity or sanitation

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Photo of informal settlement
Residents of Santini informal settlement in Butterworth are waiting for electricity and sanitation. Photo: Mbulelo Sisulu

Fed-up with waiting for the authorities to help, residents of Santini informal settlement in Butterworth took matters into their own hands in 2011. After years of fetching water from the town nearby, residents decided to hire a plumber to connect a pipe to the main water line supplying the town. But residents remain without electricity or sanitation and they want the municipality to provide these services.

People have been living in Santini for 13 years. The 232 families came from around the Eastern Cape looking for jobs in Butterworth. Unable to pay rent in the township, they built shacks at Santini.

“There was a time where we were living without water,” said Tshepo Mbuqe, 28. “Then, as residents, we decided to generate money so that we can instal water pipes for ourselves. We asked every household to donate R30 … Then, we bought pipes. We hired a plumber … That is why we have water today … If we were to wait for government to give us water, we would wait until Jesus comes.”

Mbuqe said, “We are getting nothing from government in terms of service delivery. We still relieve ourselves in the bushes because we do not have toilets. It is very difficult to put pit toilets in the yard because our yards are very small.”

He said some people had illegal electricity connections; others used paraffin and candles, which was a fire risk.

“People who live in shacks are not taken seriously [by the municipality],” said Mbuqe.

Street committee member Nomvuzo Mthenjana said they wanted houses on the land where they were currently living. “Most of the [Santini] people are selling [hawking] in town and the clinic, hospital, banks, shop, schools and police station are not far for us,” she said.

Councillor Zolani Siyo said, “Government is still looking for land to build houses for the people of Santini.” He said it was difficult to develop the area because it was in the flood plain of a river and the land belonged to traditional leaders.

But traditional leader Chief Mlungisi Tsipa told GroundUp that the land belonged to the municipality. “I do not understand why the councillor says this land belongs to us,” he said. “Those shacks are built on the land of the municipality.”

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TOPICS:  Government Housing

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