Grey water project starts in Kwa-Mathambo, Durban

By Phumelele Kumalo, Patience Phewa and Jeff Thomas (on behalf of CORC Durban office)

Some of the largest and most dense informal settlements settlements are found in the eThekwini Municipality. These informal settlements are concentrated on the peripheries of Durban. Living conditions are characterised by overcrowding and the lack of basic services such as piped water, sanitation and health care. Kwa-Mathambo is an informal settlement that faces these problems. It is located around 10 kilometres north from Durban’s city centre on North Coast Road in an area called Avoca.

Kwa-Mathambo was established in 1991. According to community reports, the first settler was an informal domestic worker who built a shack in the premises of the landowner. More people settled on the land in subsequent years, and today 565 people are living in Kwa-Mathambo in 294 shacks. Three different private owners own the land occupied, which deepens the questions of tenure and service delivery. Despite the difficulty of negotiating for adequate services and tenure, the informal settlers have a good standing relationship with the land owners, who are keen to sell the land to the eThekwini Metro. The settlement is built against a steep hill on a relative small piece of land and the shacks are built against and sometimes even on top of each other.

The first engagement with the ISN was in 2011, when a mobilising team visited the settlement. The community was well organised with strong leadership, and the community requested support to conduct an enumeration to plan for the future improvement of the settlement. The enumeration process is not only crucial to obtain all the necessary information on household level, but also to mobilise the members of the community for the following steps in the upgrading process. Through the enumeration process, the community prioritized sanitation facilities, solutions to flooding and grey water contamination, and the improvement of the shacks.

Ntodeni Dengo, a community leader in Kwa-Mathabo, said that the mobilisation process was crucial in getting the community on board.

So we start here in Kwa-Mathambo and designed the place how it should look like. We designed a model about how the new place could look like. We started with the mobilisation of the community, and we also do the enumeration to count the people. We know now that we have 565 people in our community.

The community prepared a proposal to the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) for a small-scale grey water drainage and water taps extension project. Several meetings took place between CORC technical support staff, the broader community, and the community leadership. As a result, a local technical team was established as a monitoring structure, which is called a Community Construction Management Team (CCMT). The CCMT is a team of three: two project “bookkeepers”, who will oversee paperwork, delivery of materials and checking of quantities and safe keeping and record keeping for the project, and one project manager responsible for smooth running and implementation of the project.

An fundamental process in the CCMT is the effective role woman play in the organising and collectivisation of the community. Nomsa Khumalo, a community leader who has lived in Kwa-Mathambo for more than 17 years, said

Over the past 17 years, there has not been a single thing done to improve our lives. Right now we are working with ISN and CORC so we can improve this place to be better for all. We are also saving a few cents every day so that we can also contribute to the improvements that will come.

Another lady, Thenjiwe Nzama — a shop owner in Kwa-Mathambo — called attention to how the community is organising around common community health issues. Her shop is above a blocked and contaminated greywater channel, which attracts flies and other pests.

I have a shop here in Kwa-Mathambo but we have a big problem. The flies come from the dirty water inside my shop. I sell fruits and bread and the flies come from outside into my shop. We end up being sick and cough. Even my neighbor caught TB (Tuberculosis) and was very sick. The smell of the dirty water is terrible. We have this terrible problem.

In the general community meeting a team of skilled volunteers within the community emerged such as plumbers, builders and ordinary community members who were willing to make a change in their settlement. The community then began by clearing the area and made rough design of the plan to be executed. The area surrounding the Greywater drainage was fenced as the work of reshaping the drain began. The second step will be to tube the water pipe underground to an area where the community plan to construct a basin and put up a washing area, which will comprise of 2 sinks and a standpipe for water drawing purposes, which started on Monday 26 November.

The greywater and drainage project in Kwa-Mathambo has generated a lot of community cohesion. The project was initially seen as a start to a re-blocking project but due to some difficulties faced including land ownership, the community ended up realizing the need for grey water channel and extension of water access points project. This is a small project but it has led a good collection/mobilization of the community.

This project made it clear that a small project for newly ISN mobilized settlement can be a good enhancement of community participation. Rather than jumping into a big project like re-blocking which needs a lot of community engagement/participation, small projects help build the critical community capacity for government engagement around better service delivery.