Families living in crumbling houses near the river bank say the Gauteng government promised to relocate them years ago.
Joburg EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the teenager slipped and fell into the overflowing river on Tuesday.
The safety of families living along the banks of the Klipspruit River in Kliptown, Soweto, has been brought into question after a teenager is believed to have drowned there during the recent storm.
On Wednesday, scores of residents gathered as a body was recovered from the water. Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) and the police’s water wing are yet to release his identity because his family is yet to be notified.
He is believed to have been swept away during heavy rains on Tuesday. “The people who were there when he fell told us he is about 18 years old. We nor the police have yet seen his birth certificate [or ID],” EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said.
Most of the homes were built years ago by occupiers but are now badly dilapidated.
“Last year, there was a baby who drowned. The year before that, another boy was found in the river. This area is not safe,” said Hazel Lewis, who joined onlookers as the body was being removed.
Betty Harrison said she has lived there most of her life. Given the opportunity, she would leave because their homes flood every year. “I was born here and when our grandparents died, we just took their houses,” she said.
‘It means when we die then our children will continue to stay here and suffer the same floods we face every year.” She said while her home had not flooded during the heavy rains this week, the teenager’s death was a reminder of their disastrous living conditions.
“The councillor promises us houses in another area but it never happens. They just give us food parcels and that’s the end of it,” she said.
Another resident, Patricia Mabuya, said her son lives in one of the crumbling houses, with cracks in the walls and holes in the roof. There was still a pool of water in his house when GroundUp arrived.
Flooding in the home
“He doesn’t sleep in the bed. He sleeps sitting in the chair when it floods. It’s very bad,” Mabuya said. Ward 17 councilor Dwain Ponsonby (Patriotic Alliance) said the Gauteng provincial government was the implementing agent on the housing issues and Johannesburg Roads Agency was responsible for stormwater maintenance.
“I was there on Monday when there were floods. We really need to help residents. They say they were previously promised houses and believe I should be the one giving them answers, but it’s not up to me,” he said.
In April 2022, GroundUp reported that the City of Joburg had committed to reducing the housing backlog. It said this would be done through the Sector 2 project, for which the Gauteng provincial government was the implementing agent.
The city said its housing department “remains committed to reducing the backlog” and has allocated R21.7 million in the 2022-23 budget to the Kliptown urban renewal program.
Questions sent to the city and provincial Department of Human Settlements went unanswered by the time of publication.
This article originally appeared on GroundUp and was republished with permission. Read the original article here.