By Bhekikhaya Mabaso and Lesego Makgatho
Johanesburg – The Marlboro Emergency Centre holds 84 units, with a family of four to five people sharing space in each unit. The corridors of the emergency community hall feel like that of a prison facility with several cells lined up.
The centre has been home to families who were moved there from informal settlements in the surrounding areas towards the North of Joburg. What began as temporary housing for the families back in 2013 has turned to a seven-year stay for them.
Children play in the tiny corridors with not enough room to run around. The neglected occupiers live in tiny units with not much room for the families of four or more people. Most of them are unemployed.
The hall has eight taps to use for laundry, with two functional toilets but there’s very little privacy. Each unit does not have a proper ceiling, causing leaks from the roof.
Francina Matlou, 34, lives in a unit with her husband, who works as a security guard, and her two children aged 10 and 5. She’s been living in the hall since 2013.
“When we were allocated here by the Department of Housing, these rooms were ready for us. There was no power at the time and no proper roofing. We were given forms to sign, with rules on what we can and cannot do on the premises. We were told we would be here for just three months and would be moved to RDP houses.”
Resident Lucas Mabiletja said the Department of Housing had promised them government housing but nothing had been done.
“We have no privacy here. We share a toilet. We were moved from a settlement nearby and were told we were occupying it illegally. That’s when they evicted us and brought us here. We’ve been here since November 2013,” said Mabiletja.
The families said they had been promised container houses that were being erected near the community hall, but there hadn’t been any communication from the Department of Housing.
“This is no longer temporary. We are now heading for eight years living here. All three of my kids were born here. Every time I have to take a bath, my children have to step outside to play a bit to give me some privacy. This is no place to raise children,” said Mabiletja.
David Ngcobo, 60 arrived with his family in 2014. He said he had been evicted from a building in the Johannesburg CBD. He lives with his wife, four kids, and four grandchildren in one unit. They divide themselves on their bunk bed for sleeping purposes.
“Jacob Mamabolo was the MEC of housing at the time when we were brought here. The last time we engaged with the Department of Housing was last October. The last thing they told us was that there was no budget allocated to place us in decent housing, hence we’re still here. What’s painful is that people have died here, taken their last breaths here,” he said.
Ngcobo said all residents wanted was for clarity from the Housing Department on whether they would be moved or not.
“If they have made this our permanent stay, can they fix it and turn it into decent housing for us? That’s all we want,” he said.
Castro Ngobese of the Department of Human Settlement Urban Planning referred Sunday Independent to the City of Johannesburg, after saying his was not the relevant department to speak to. Neo Goba of the City of Johannesburg did not respond to questions sent to him at the time of publication.
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