Most of the residents of Waterloo moved there in the early 2000s, when they were provided early RDP houses. Resi-dents have mixed views on whether they will remain in the area in the future. Some are waiting for an RDP house but they have been registered on the list for many years. They also have dreams of living elsewhere in the city or of going back to their original homes in rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal or the Eastern Cape. Others plan to move away from ‘this dirty and muddy place’ once they have a job or have raised enough money to get an education.
We are focused on supporting existing institutions and organisations that are in the are, so we have partnered with Verulam Young Muslim Society (VYMS) in supporting projects in the area.
Mostly, residents chose to move to the settlement because they were looking for work, because it was less expen-sive than in other places, to escape family conflicts, and to live in a place with a good connection to shops and businesses nearby and the rest of the city.
Residents have experienced positive and negative changes in their living space. Most people in Hammonds Farm have moved there because they were allocated housing developed by the government for disadvantaged communities. Residents are proud of their homes and believe that they a big improvement to their previous homes, especially if they had lived in an informal house. Water, toilets and electricity as well as having a secure structure and a dry home are the most positive changes for residents. Parts of Hammonds Farm are compared by resi-dents to housing in the affluent residential and commercial town, Umhlanga Rocks, “because I have everything” (resident). However, some feel that their houses are too small to accom-modate larger families. The two storey design is difficult for residents with mobility prob-lems. Some residents wish that they had a freestanding house rather than living in a flat. Residents in Waterloo explained that their RDP houses are much smaller than those at Hammonds Farm, consisting of one-bedroom only. Overcrowding is a serious problem. Properties are also built very close together making expansion difficult although because they are free standing, extensions are possible for some. Houses located near the river in Waterloo suffer from flooding. Housing in Canelands and Coniston is commonly very poor and largely informal, residents are hoping they will gain ‘proper’ housing soon. Residents live in very bad circumstances and fear the risks of fire, flooding and crime, noting that their houses are in such a bad state they cannot provide protection. Housing is clearly varied in this wider area.
Water & Electricity
In Waterloo, residents are happy that they have basic services such as water, toilets and electricity. Some people expressed their sense of safety now that electricity connections to their homes are legal, in comparison to the illegal connections in the informal settle-ments. However, the cost of these services is very expensive, especially when there are many unemployed people. At times, residents must prioritise buying food for their chil-dren over paying for municipal water or electricity with the government grants that they receive. The short-age of money to buy electricity tempts residents to connect illegally and at times water must be collected from communal sources rather than from inside the home. There is also a social pressure to pay for services, as residents want to be accepted by their community and do not want their neighbours to think they are struggling. This is especially true if a person has moved from an informal settlement into housing provided by the government. Despite the provision of piped water, there are a number of problems with maintaining water supply and good drainage from around buildings and on streets. There are often blocked drains, stagnant water and problems with the sewerage system. In Canelands and Coniston residents are often accessing electricity illegally as they have no legal supply and many residents noted how dangerous this was for children especially. In Coniston, the government installed ablution blocks at the end of 2016. These toilets and better access to clean water are commonly identified as the most significant change in the community in Coniston and Hilltop. The residents feel that these ablution blocks provide them with adequate toilet facilities and preserve their dignity. In Canelands, similar provision of ablution blocks has provided dignity and made the settlement cleaner. However, access to taps and toilet facilities in the settlements can be difficult as some homes are very far from the facilities. The walk between homes and taps can be extremely dangerous because of the trucks that use the same road, and at times, you will need to queue for water. Also, the ablution blocks in Canelands are sometimes locked.
TRANSPORT, SCHOOLS & CLINICS
Canelands is viewed as a good area in terms of access to shops and services. It is within walking distance of public transport, Verulam town centre, and some factories, which enables people to reach places quite easily. Small businesses in Coniston provide residents with freshfood, so that they do not have to travel to Verulam, saving money, time and lowering their risk of being mugged. Access to schools and clinics is a problem. The school in Waterloo is too full. This means that children walk long distances to school along dangerous busy roads, especially since many parents cannot afford to send their children to school in a taxi. Almost everyone who participated in the research called for schools to be built closer to their neighbourhoods. There is also a need for creches that provide good quality and safe care for younger children and playgrounds. The nearest clinic is also far away and is ‘not in good condition’ with few helpful staff and little medicine. Those who wish to use the clinic have to wake up very early because long queues form from early in the morning in order to be treated during the day. Often, Waterloo residents travel to the Tongaat clinic but they fear that the new management system that requires proof of address will exclude them from using this clinic, as they are not local residents.
EMPLOYMENT & WORK
A large number of residents are unemployed and the lack of jobs is the worst problem facing Waterloo, Hammonds Farm, Coniston, and Canelands. This is especially worrying because there is very high youth unemployment. Residents plead for the provision of jobs, in order to earn money and prevent life from coming to ‘a standstill’. Some residents make a living by collecting scrap metal and recycling materials. This is an increasingly difficult and dangerous form of employment because they have to use the same roads as cars and taxis when transporting their materials. Some agriculture is practised to help feed families and to sell produce as a business. Although nearby wealthier neighbourhoods and developments of factories, shopping malls, and the airport in northern eThekwini do offer some opportunities for work, many felt that when construction of larger projects, such as the airport or the college at La Mercy, are finished, none of the residents are left with permanent employment. Newly created jobs go primarily to workers from places outside of the community and younger residents were more likely to get opportunities than older ones (although jobs for youth have become harder to secure). Men often benefitted more than women as the work was often construction related. A few residents are benefiting from changes in service provision in the community, such as the employment of cleaners who sweep the roads and cut unwanted grass. The councillor is often used as a way of finding people to take up work that is on offer. For example, one resident stated that the Spar will contact the local councillor if there is a job available. This also happens with work created by the Expanded Public Works Programme. The councillor will then decide who will be given a job based upon who is unemployed, and who is volunteering for their political party every day. The connections between political ties and getting a job can create tensions within the community, especially since the party represented by the ward councillor has recently changed. One resident stated that both the ANC and the DA give jobs to their ‘own people’, which excludes others. Apart from links to politics, there is a feeling that people only get jobs by having links to those which have jobs or own businesses. Some small businesses have been formed by residents, including panel beating shops, tuck shops, and crèches. In Hammonds Farm there is a new business association which tries to support small businesses. There is also an Internet café, so that resi-dents no longer have to travel to Verulam to type and send their CVs. The café enables people to search online for jobs. Residents in Waterloo noted how difficult it was to gain skills without travelling very far, and how the struggled with a skills mismatch when it came to applying for jobs. The area of Waterloo also lacks appropriate sites for residents to set up new businesses.
There are clear distinctions in the experiences of crime that different residents are exposed to. Some residents believe that their areas are safe while others having experienced theft of the vegetables growing in their gardens, handbags, cell phones and household goods. One resident of Waterloo explained that crime is so regular that residents are afraid to leave their house without having someone to watch over it for them. Other Waterloo residents feel that once they have locked their houses they will not fear anyone breaking in. Where a community policing forum has been operating in Block Ten of Waterloo, a resident wrote in her diary that the area is much safer and there is less drug use: ‘the washing can leave the whole night in the washing line and no one comes and [steals] it’. High levels of crime are viewed as the result of high unemployment within communities. A number of Verulam residents believe that crime had risen in the last year in particular, with criminals mugging pedestrians and stealing bags and cell phones as they walk between their homes and the shops. Women who work at the nearby King Shaka airport use a taxi to get to work as it is safer, while men are able to walk to work. The growing number of shacksand residents in Coniston are often blamed for the increase in crimes as people move from elsewhere in the city. But residents in Coniston suffer from high levels of crime too. Drug use, drunkenness and the presence of the tavern also leads to violent crimes. This is made worse because the police take a long time to attend to any crime.