Families left in the lurch

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Twenty-six families spend a second night sleeping in the open after being promised that they would be relocated to a nearby settlement.

The residents, from Vastrap near Booysen Park in Port Elizabeth, waited anxiously in the sweltering heat yesterday for municipal workers to arrive to transport them to the Qunu informal settlement.

But only four of the 30 families who were meant to be relocated had been moved by last night. Many of them had dismantled their shacks on Sunday night, expecting to be relocated in the morning.

They had been told the trucks would be there at 7am.

Instead, they sat for hours – in temperatures that reached up to 38°C in some parts of the city – waiting for the trucks, sheets of corrugated iron and furniture piled neatly next to them.

There was no shelter and the children’s faces were tear-streaked as the sun relentlessly beat down on them. Their frazzled mothers scrounged around for leftovers so that they could have something to eat.

A group of men from the area collected money for bread to help feed the hungry residents.

The trucks eventually arrived at midday, with the drivers saying they had got lost.

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the municipality would investigate the cause of the delay.

It plans to eventually relocate a total of 121 families to Qunu.

Last night, women and children gathered around a fire while the men guarded their belongings.

Some people allowed a few of the women to cook in their shacks. Lindelwa Xhampo, 30, said it was hurtful that they had to spend another night out in the open.

“As you can see, we have kids,” she said.

“They [the municipality] only sent two trucks that started moving people after 2pm.

“Even those who have been moved will sleep outside because there is no way they can put the shacks together at this time of the night.

“We are worried about our furniture because there are those who will steal from us.”

Xhampo said the people who had to work today would have to boil water over fires and use the toilets for bathing.

Earlier in the day, Tumeka Peter, 24, who slept outside with her one-year-old daughter, Kungawo, on Sunday night, said: “The process of moving takes time. “When we were told that we will move today [yesterday], I was among the people who demolished their shacks on Sunday evening.

“It takes time to demolish a shack and we pay people R300 for that.

“We have been sitting here since and there is nothing happening.

“This is hurting us because we are now not different from animals which sleep outside.

“It does not mean that when we get to Qunu we will move into houses, we will still have to pay people R300 to rebuild our shacks,” she said.

Sindiswa Daba, 32, said there were several people who had not been able to take their medication yesterday as they had not had anything to eat.

“I am taking TB treatment and it’s now 11am but I haven’t had my medication,” Daba said.

“We can’t cook because we had to cut off the electricity when people started demolishing their shacks.

“It would have been better if there had been a soup kitchen to feed those who are relocating as this is a special case.”

Community leader Simphiwe Waka said the Department of Human Settlements had agreed that 30 families would be relocated as from yesterday.

“There are 121 families that will be relocated to the Qunu informal settlement,” Waka said.

“These families were told to dismantle their shacks but nothing is happening – but, surprisingly, you will see officials going around here looking for our votes.”

Mniki said there were challenges with the service provider and they were following that up.

He said contingency plans had been made to provide the residents with tents and food.