Report confirms services in Marikana are temporary

Thousands of people live in Marikana informal settlement, which is on private land. Archive photo: GroundUp/Ashraf Hendricks

According to the report, basic services in Marikana are temporary, “anonymous and dehumanising”.

A study by Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) of Marikana informal settlement in Cape Town reveals that the services that the City provides to the residents are temporary and that they are “anonymous and dehumanising”. The report, which was presented by SERI researchers at Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha on Friday looked at four thematic areas, namely, tenure security and land use management, access to basic services, economic life and political space.

Presenting the findings on access to basic services, SERI’s director for research and advocacy, Alana Potter, said that the temporary nature of services to the informal settlement has an adverse effects on women and children. Marikana is home to about 60,000 people but only has 371 chemical toilets and between 50-100 communal taps. Potter said that the taps were installed ahead of the local government elections and a mast-light was erected before the national elections this year.

“The chemical toilets are constructed on the periphery of the settlement and along the roads. The toilet doors open to the traffic and this means that this was done with no privacy or dignity of the people who use them in mind,” said Potter.

The report also unveils that there is no system in place to engage service providers or report faults. “Other than the ward committees, the ward councillor is the only person to whom the community can lay a complaint. The service providers are utterly unaccountable to the residents of Marikana,” she said.

The inadequate public services according to the report has led to ‘self supply’ – residents constructing their own pit latrines and buying pipes to connect to the communal taps so that they can have water inside their yards. This has, according to Potter, put a strain on local resources and “differentiates access along social and economic lines and deepens vulnerability.”

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“The services to Marikana and the manner in which they are provided communicates to residents that they are temporary, they do not belong. The government and the service provider are not accountable to them and essentially the service provision is anonymous and dehumanising,” said Potter.

Marikana does not have a formal electricity supply. Instead, the report uncovers that people connect to “danger boxes” or to households on the other side of the road, in Lower Crossroads. In 2015, violence broke out between Lower Crossroads and Marikana informal settlement over illegal connections being cut.

The Isivivana presentation of SERI’s report on Marikana, which documents the City of Cape Town’s failure to upgrade the informal settlement. Photo by Mzi Velapi

In a meeting in Philippi with residents from Marikana and other informal settlements, they complained about the failure of the City of Cape Town to upgrade informal settlements and that all of them receive inadequate services if at all.

People residing in BM section, an informal settlement in Site B, complained about the poor service delivery in the area. The residents claim that the government does not care about their needs, and that they are only recognised when its election time.

According to Cynthia Zweni, a community leader in Marikana, the City of Cape Town provided them with chemical toilets which are not safe and are far from their houses, making children and women vulnerable to rape.

“We need to see development in our area; the open space must be occupied with recreational services and playgrounds for the children. This may lessen the crime activities within the community. We are not safe and the police don’t take our calls seriously. We need safety,” said Zweni.

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Mary Duiker from SST informal settlement said that they live in constant fear, not just of being attacked during the night but fear of hearing the cry, ‘umlilo-umlilo’ (fire-fire). Duiker told Elitsha that she had recently lost all of her belongings and had to start her life from scratch: “I lost everything to a shack fire and that was the case because the fire brigade couldn’t go to my shack on time because of the lack of roads that led to my house,” she said.

According to the report, even though committees of community representatives had engaged the City around basic services, there has been “no tangible improvement of services”. According to Tiffany Ebrahim, a researcher at SERI, the committees have existed since the establishment of the settlement, and were recognised as leaders by the City of Cape Town when they took up litigation.

SERI’s research shows how nearby supermarkets play a big role in the economic life of people of Marikana, supplying the stock for local vendors to sell.

In a recent media inquiry about electrification and the installation of street lights in Marikana, the City of Cape Town made it clear that they cannot provide services to the informal settlement as they are appealing a High Court judgement that ordered the City of Cape Town to obtain the land from the private owner. “The Marikana informal settlement in Philippi is formed on a number of private properties which are the subject of a pending court case. Electricity infrastructure and lighting can thus not be installed within the informal settlement at the moment,” said Mayoral Committee Member for Energy and Climate Change, Phindile Maxiti.

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