Ratepayers block plans to upgrade informal settlement in eThekwini

There are more than 300 shacks in Havelock next to the formal suburb of Greenwood Park

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The informal settlement of Havelock where ratepayers from the leafy suburb of Greenwood Park, Durban, have successfully halted a project by eThekwini Municipality to upgrade the area. Photos: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

Ratepayers living in the formal suburb of Greenwood Park, Durban, have successfully halted a project by the eThekwini Municipality to upgrade Havelock informal settlement, home to more than 300 households.

Havelock is on private land and is one of the oldest informal settlements in Durban.

The battle over the land dates back more than 30 years, during which time the settlement has mushroomed. Families living in Havelock have been demanding that the municipality install services. But the ratepayers say the City did not consult them properly about these plans.

In February 2022, about 250 Greenwood Park residents signed a petition to “halt the proposed upgrade project and implement a permanent solution to this scourge”.

The petition stated that the government should rather build permanent housing.

“We empathise with them [Havelock residents] in their hardship. Over the years, we have assisted them many times with food parcels, clothing, etc. especially during fires and the Covid lockdown. However, after consulting widely with ratepayers in the area, it was decided to object to the proposed upgrade that the City is suggesting,” reads the petition.

“The informal families must be provided with ownership properties as was promised to them. The proposed upgrade is yet again just another temporary solution and just prolongs the problem for another 20 years or so. The status quo cannot continue indefinitely.”

Ratepayers object to “quick fix”

According to Andrew Akkers, the chairperson of the Ward 34 Residents and Ratepayers Association, their property prices have been “severely impacted” by the settlement’s growth.

“Homes closest to the settlement wishing to relocate can never attract any buyers and even the banks refuse bond applications due to the high risk.

“The settlement originally started with just a few shacks, primarily on state or municipal property. However, they kept growing and now occupy neighbouring privately owned land.

“How is it possible that the City is going to utilise public funds for projects on private property?” asked Akkers.

He said Greenwood Park struggles with power outages due to the number of illegal connections made by people in Havelock.

“There are also constant sewer blockages on roads bordering the settlement. The sewerage infrastructure was not developed or upgraded to support such demand,” he added.

Akkers said they handed their petition to the mayor’s office shortly before work was due to start at the site.

Havelock informal settlement is on private land owned by Sam Marais. The 66-year-old still lives on the property in the home that has been in his family for nearly 70 years.

While the development is on hold, the Marais family, who own the land on which Havelock is located, are demanding that they also be consulted.

Landowner Sam Marais, 66, said he was born on the property and took ownership from his parents about 18 years ago. He said he has been waiting for the municipality to consult him.

“We demand that the ratepayers are kept fully informed and be consulted on the new proposal for housing the informal residents,” said Marais.

Families left in limbo

When GroundUp visited Havelock, there were live electric cables on the ground. While walking through the shacks, this reporter was warned not to lean on or touch certain shacks or risk electrocution.

Community leader Thembelani Ntuli said he has lived in Havelock all his life. He said for as long as he can remember, municipal officials have made promises that have never been implemented.

“We want eThekwini municipality to speed up the consultation process so that we can have proper houses with electricity,” said Ntuli.

DA spokesperson for human settlements Zamani Khuzwayo said he has been getting a number of calls from shack dwellers in Greenwood Park area asking for his help. He said the ward councillor had recently resigned and he was told to step in temporarily.

Government responds

In a media statement on 8 May, municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said that the comprehensive upgrading projects for Havelock and Thandanani informal settlements (both in ward 34) were planned for 2021, but these projects were blocked by ratepayers.

Sisilana added that she was waiting for a more comprehensive response. “We are still collating information from the human settlements units,” she told GroundUp.

The City’s chairperson for human settlements and infrastructure committee Bheki Mngwengwe confirmed that part of the Havelock land is privately owned. He said the municipality has requested an urgent meeting with the ratepayers, shack dwellers and others involved.

“We are engaging ratepayers because we really want to develop the informal settlement. We are just waiting for the Speaker to set the date. We do want to build proper houses if the land is suitable,” said Mngwengwe.

Sam Marais’s house (in yellow) overlooks hundreds of shacks on his property.

TOPICS:  Housing

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