Soweto informal settlement abandoned by government

After 33 years, just five working toilets and four working taps for hundreds of households in Nomzamo Park

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Nomzamo Park resident Nombusiso Jaca doing laundry at one of two communal standpipe points. Photos: Chris Gilili

  • Nomzamo Park informal settlement in Orlando East, Soweto, was established in 1990 and named in honour of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
  • There are only five working toilets and four working taps to be shared by hundreds of households.
  • The City says Nomzamo is located in a wetland. There is neither a plan to develop the area nor a plan to relocate the residents.
  • Ward 39 Councillor Mohau Molefe (ANC) went to ground after we contacted him and never responded to our queries.

Residents of Nomzamo Park informal settlement in Soweto say they have given up hope of ever having a better life.

The densely populated informal settlement in the shadow of the Soweto Towers was named after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (born Nomzamo Winifred). It was established by people who left hostels in Johannesburg after the war with Inkatha before the end of the apartheid government.

Zamile Mxhego, who still lives in Nomzamo Park, was among the first to move here.

“Life here is very bad,” he says. “It’s inhuman living in Nomzamo. People use open fields around here to relieve themselves. The toilets are cleaned inconsistently.”

“I have to walk a long distance to get water from the communal tap … As old as I am, carrying a bucket daily is a struggle. At least by now, I should be having a tap in my yard,” said Mxhego.

“We are calling for the better life that we were promised. It’s been too long,” said Mxhego.

Residents of Nomzamo Park informal settlement in Orlando East, Soweto, say they have been abandoned by the government.

After a massacre in a tavern in July 2022, when 15 people were gunned down, President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the area. He promised to improve conditions.

But a year later, Nomzamo Park still has only five working chemical toilets. The streets are squalid, and filthy water runs down them. Most people use a stretch of vacant land at the back of the settlement along the main road as a toilet.

The few toilets available are irregularly cleaned, residents complain.

The janitors were locally recruited by a company contracted by the City of Johannesburg, but they say they lack working gear and sometimes their salaries are paid late.

Only five toilets are working. Residents mostly use an open field behind these toilets to relieve themselves.

There are six taps at each of two communal standpipes, but currently just two communal taps work at each standpipe. The others have been broken since early in the year. Residents have started a monthly community fund to repair taps when they break.

There is no formal electrification, but there are some illegal connections to nearby streetlights that Eskom keeps removing. The place is pitch dark at night as there are no floodlights. People walk to formal houses in Orlando just to charge their phones.

Thulisile Gwanya, resident for 11 years, said, “Unemployment is a serious problem, the majority of us are just sitting at home. Crime is escalating.”

A filthy street in Nomzamo informal settlement

Kenneth Hlungwane, general manager for Supreme Sanitation, which is contracted to clean the toilets, said, “The councillor of that area is the one failing the community. He should be the person making requests for more toilets and additional taps from the City. And the City will engage us.”

“I am not aware of the problem regarding unclean toilets, but I will go there with a team to investigate. We have a duty to clean toilets there at least twice a week,” said Hlungwane.

City spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said, “The City of Joburg has no current plans or program to develop Nomzamo due to it being situated on the flood line and wetland which requires relocation.”

Yet according to Modingoane, there is no plan to relocate the residents.

Several attempts to get a comment from Ward 39 Councillor Mohau Molefe (ANC) were unsuccessful. After our initial queries, he ignored calls and messages from GroundUp.

Zamile Mxhego has stayed in Nomzamo Park since it was established. He sells handmade decorations to tourists and passersby.

TOPICS:  Electricity Housing Local government Sanitation Water

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