- Musa Mbhele says he aims to clear flood victims from shelters before Christmas.
- He says the plan is to move families in the remaining 52 shelters to hotels and rental buildings.
- He says the plan is ambitious, but it is necessary.
The eThekwini Metro is attempting to rehouse flood victims, who are currently living in community shelters, before Christmas.
It’s a goal which the City manager, Musa Mbhele, says is ambitious, but necessary.
“We were given a tight target by the government that no one spends Christmas in the shelters. It is quite an ambitious target. It is a target we have to pursue because we care for our people,” he said on Thursday.
He was speaking at a joint press briefing by the metro and the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, said the City was trying to close down one shelter per week, but added that 52 of the initial 120 shelters were still in operation.
Mbhele said it was important to shut down the shelters, which he conceded had left thousands living in inhumane conditions since the devastating April floods six months ago.
“We have been meeting on a weekly basis to attack this and accelerate people out of shelters. I agree the conditions are inhumane,” he said during a question and answer session with media.
Regulatory approvals have to be in place to relocate people, he said, adding:
He said the City was pushing to ensure people were “accommodated properly” because “this thing of looking at rentals is the quickest way, so minimum standards are met for human habitation”.
“The instruction is that nobody must have their Christmas there.”
Of the 3 950 households displaced, there were still 1 449 that remained displaced, Kaunda said.
“Great progress has also been made to procure transitional emergency accommodation, which includes state and privately-owned properties.”
He said the City had supplied 467 households with building materials to enable them “to get back on their feet”.
“In addition, work has started at Marianridge Rental Housing, and repairs in the Umlazi T Section and Glebelands hostels are underway.”
The City has come under fire by Parliament for the slow progress in removing communities from shelters.
During a follow up inspection by the Ad-Hoc Joint Committee on Flood Disaster Relief and Recovery in late August, local leaders were criticised for failing to act faster to assist families in shelters.
The two co-chairpersons of the committee had mixed feelings about the progress in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal.
It followed an initial slow response to the flood disaster amid concerns that rampant corruption, which has plagued KwaZulu-Natal for years, could scupper relief efforts.
During a visit to the Mountview Civic Centre in Verulam, disgusting conditions were observed and mothers complained that many of the men in the shelters consumed copious amounts of alcohol and used foul language near their children. There were also fights and petty disagreements, which added to the already strained situation.
There is, unfortunately, nowhere for these mothers to go to, in a shelter where they are relegated to sleeping less than an arm’s length apart from one another.