Hostel dwellers still live in squalor


When a decision to eradicate hostels around Tshwane was taken, the “good news” was welcomed by those who lived in the hostels and the community alike.

These included hostel dwellers in Mamelodi, Atteridegville and Soshanguve townships.

This was not an isolated project with the provincial government also promising to set the ball rolling to eradicate hostels in Soweto and the East Rand.

Mainly inhabited by male migrant labourers who had flocked to the cities from as far as the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal, the hostels were by no means a desirable place to live.

Here, like in many towns around the country where labourers were forced to live together in cramped spaces, adults had absolutely no right to dignity.

Men showered naked with boys, and used door-less toilets. Women and children were also robbed of their dignity, forced to live among men in what could hardly be described as a family environment.

In 2009, when the provincial government announced the expansion of the project to eradicate hostels, the Pretoria News reported positively on how this would change the lives of many who live in hostels.

However, we also warned that strict monitoring and implementation of supply chain management and policies would be vital to ensure these projects achieved what they had been designed for.

But in Saulsville, near Atteridgeville, it appears the municipality and the provincial government let their guard down, to the detriment of the hostel dwellers who so desperately sought accommodation.

Those who were supposed to be accommodated in the 104 housing units that had been constructed as part of Phase 2 of the development continue to live in squalor.

The inhumane ablution facilities, with wet floors and toilets that do not flush, are still in place.

The men, women and children who live at the hostels still have to share the open showers.

Garbage removal is done by dumping rubbish in the open veld and burning it.

The younger children have to attend crèche in Atteridegeville as there is no crèche or other baby-care facilities in the hostels.

Up to 12 people still share a dormitory. Rooms are demarcated by putting up curtains to separate the living spaces.

This is despite the fact that R85 million had been spent to build the 104 housing units, where the hostel dwellers were meant to be relocated.

Nophelo Nkohla lives with her husband and 19-month-old son, and is fed up with the living conditions at the hostel.

“It is not safe living here. The grass is never cut and there are children who live here. We have to boil the water we use to prepare milk bottles for the babies because the water is not safe.

“We heard that we would be prioritised to go and live in the new flats, but that has never happened. For now we continue to live here, there’s nothing else we can do,” said Nkohla.

Thulani Nqabeni, who also lives at the hostel, was seen using a cardboard poster he took from a street pole to cover his broken bedroom window as the previous one got wet with the recent rain and wind.

His tiny room is located not far from the toilets, with their terrible stench. “What can we say? This is the place where we live. Before you use the toilet, you must fill a bucket with water so that you can flush when you are done. It has always been like this,” he said.

Some hostel dwellers were so fed up with the conditions inside the dormitories that they moved out and built shacks on the grounds of the hostel.

The residents also claim they have been sidelined when cleaning projects are available, with people bribing their way into jobs.

Though other phases of redeveloping the hostels have been completed in the area, hostel residents are not too hopeful of their situation changing, claiming there are people who never lived in the hostels who have bribed their way on to the waiting list for the new development.

However, those earmarked to occupy the new housing units will have to wait until the units are finally fit for human habitation.