Shack dwellers want an explanation from the eThekwini Municipality as to why they did not benefit from a housing project which has accommodated 50 families already and is underway on their doorstep in Umlazi H-Section.
The project started in 2016 and the first phase (H section flats) has been completed, with RDP units and four-roomed houses still underway.
Allocation of the units has caused confusion and conflict. Unallocated families claim that the current occupants of the units "invaded" and have refused to leave.
Bhekani Msimo, 53, says ten years ago he was the first to erect a shack in the area. "I was one of the first to register for those flats ... I am known as the father of this place, yet children born in front of me and people from outside Umlazi and this settlement who live across from me live a better life. I just tell myself that I was born to live and die this way, undignified and homeless," says Msimo.
Msimo says he has been relocated more than once to make way for the construction. He was anticipating a new home, but was disappointed when he was told all the keys had been allocated to people and that he would have to wait for the next phase of the project.
Sibusiso Khawula, Deputy Chairperson of the South African Communist Party (SACP) in Umlazi, says many of the families currently staying in the units were not rightfully allocated by the municipality.
He says it is already "too late" for the matter to be resolved. An elected community task team will now ensure fair and legal allocation in the next phase.
Khawula alleges that a former councillor acted corruptly. "One family would have four homes allocated to their name. This infuriated the community. That is when chaos and violence erupted. Soon after, the community took charge of the allocations and evicted the previous occupants. The system they also used proved unfair and led to some people from the [informal] settlement nearby still without homes," says Khawula.
Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said, "Currently there is an allocation confusion in the erected flats, with members of the community as well as residents from the transit camps in the premises, seemingly unclear on how the flats are allocated. This has caused chaos previously and resulted in some residents who had registered for the homes being stranded and homeless."
"There are several ongoing and planned housing projects in Umlazi. Each has their own allocation criteria ... This project approval was for 2,000 units in various wards within Umlazi," said Mayisela.
Meanwhile, Thulisile Cele lives with her six children and seven siblings in a shack near the development. "After my mother died, I've had no choice but to take responsibility for my siblings and children ... Having walls and a proper roof over my family's head would change my life."