Sebokeng, South Africa and the Normality of Sewage By Eric Kruger
If you think that life is tough for you in Australia, then at least look on the bright side, that your basic infrastructure, such as sewage disposal still works. Not here in parts of South Africa, as the place is falling apart. Sebokeng is but one example, a poor, largely Black settlement, seemingly forgotten by our oppressive masters in Jo-Burg. The conditions from failed infrastructure are so bad that one would be forgiven for wanting to go back to ancestorial ways, of living in the bush in huts. Certainty the air would be fresher.
“Sebokeng residents are living with human excrement on their doorstep as pools of sewage ooze into their homes.
Locals said the smell was so horrendous, they could not stand to walk outside their own homes.
“The heavy smell of human excrement is no longer a threat. It has become a norm,” one local said, while listing the hardships of living in the sewage spill.
Streets in the area are covered in sewage flowing from all directions.
“It is leaking from inside our houses, drains, toilets and manholes in our yards and in the streets,” one resident said
Potholes are a feature of almost every street and have now formed “dams” of excrement.
Mpho Mawiza of Sebokeng Zone 7 lives with his family, including his 95-year-old grandmother.
Their home is flooded with sewage emanating from their outside toilet.
“Today, it behaved. You should have seen it last week.” Mawiza said.
“The heavy smell of human excrement is not a joke. We cook and eat with this heavy reek hovering in our yards.”
“We are in hell, I am telling you. We have lost hope that the mess will go away. My grandmother can’t walk freely in her own yard. What will happen to her should she fall into the mess covering her yard? Who will be held accountable,” Mawiza questioned.
Mawiza has set a stall outside his yard where he sells vegetables, sweets, and cigarettes to make a living and sustain himself.
Behind his stall, there is a ‘river’ of sewage flowing from his yard into the street.
“I am unemployed. I have chosen to sell outside my home to be closer to my grandmother. People have nicknamed me the one who lives in a sh*t home. I have accepted that nickname because it resembles my life.”
Other residents living nearby face a similar dilemma.
In Sebokeng Zone 12, Rachel Maoke is in the same predicament.
Maoke said the two manholes outside her gates had burst.
“Look at the mess outside my house. It sometimes flows into my home and floods it. I have stopped using my bathtub as excrement comes through it. We are living in a mess.”
“The outside drain is also flooded. It is just a matter of time before my entire house is flooded. Where are our lying authorities when we need them? They are nowhere to be seen,” she angrily added.
Maoke has lost count of the many complaints she has lodge with authorities.
She is tired of complaining and can only hope for a miracle or an intervention.
“This government needs to be sued. If only we had funds, we would take them to court.”
Maoke added the sewage was affecting their health as her daughter was experiencing chest problems because of the stench.
“My other child’s nose is forever blocked, especially when she is at home. When she is away, she becomes better. This stench is going to kill us. We need help,” she said.
Another Zone 19 resident, Ntombi Lebesa, only uses the front door of her RDP house to enter and leave.
Her kitchen door is permanently been shut to prevent sewage from entering.
A cupboard has been placed behind the door as another preventive measure to keep the sewage out.
Her outside drain is always flooded.
“I have dug a trench to divert this mess to flow to the street, which is not a solution. The stench doesn’t go away. We are battling never-ending coughs and flu. Doctors have advised me to move away from here. The question is, where will we relocate to?
“I am fortunate that it hasn’t started coming out through my bathtub. Some of my neighbours’ bathtubs are flooded,” she said.
Her neighbour, Nomvula Chabane, recently employed someone to unblock her drain.
“I am sick and tired. My daughter has been diagnosed with a lung infection caused by the stench in my yard. My situation is worse because sewage spills from the kitchen sink, bathtub, toilet, basin and outside drain.
“This is emotional. I thought getting a new house would be the beginning of a beautiful chapter in my life. Since occupying this house four years ago, I have never enjoyed my stay here.
“My house is a mess. It smells inside and outside. I have nowhere to go but die here. Whoever is available to help is welcome,” Chabane said.
Members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), led by Amos Masondo, this week paid an oversight visited to the Sebokeng water treatment plant.
Masondo was worried about the little progress made at the plant to fix ageing infrastructure and the mess affecting Sebokeng.
He said a lot of money had been pumped into the treatment plant with little progress.
“… are we happy with the result? I would say there is a gap between the money spent on the plant and the results we have.
“We could have done much better. We can do better. The money spent should speak to work that has been done and work that will be done in future,” said Masondo.
Billions for resuscitation
NCOP member Dennis Ryder said the situation in Sebokeng had been happening for the past five years.
Ryder added the government had forgotten Sebokeng’s residents.
He said they had been told during their visit that between R8 billion and R11 billion was needed to fix the plant.”