Residents of the Kwa-Madala hostel in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, say they are optimistic that the visit by the Human Rights Commission in the area will assist in speeding up the development and delivery of basic services.
The commission visited the hostel and businesses that were impacted by the July 2021 unrest to conduct an in-loco inspection. Most of the people living at the hostel are unemployed youth.
The inspection is part of the commission’s leg of the Gauteng hearings into the unrest. The township was severely impacted by the unrest that left many businesses shut.
The unrest claimed about 350 lives and caused more than R50 billion in damages to infrastructure and businesses in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Mduduzi Ngubani, one of the committee leaders at Kwa Madala Hostel, says is hopeful that the commission’s visit will usher in much-needed change.
“We are very, very happy for them to come and visit us. It shows that there are people who are residing at Madala hostel. That’s an honour for them to come down to us get our concerns.”
Impact of July unrest on businesses
He told the commission the July unrest did not affect the hostel community that much, though it caused massive damages to most businesses in the vicinity.
“We were not that much affected here. But those who were most affected are those businesses around Pan Africa. The whole hostel was okay; even our own businesses here were not affected that much.”
Meanwhile, Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen says hostel living has always been a challenge to South Africans.
“Hostels have always been a problem in this country because of the fact that they’re single-sex hostels. I mean there were times when women were not allowed. They were even fined when they were found there. So, today we are here to look at the conditions. People don’t have to live like this. So, we’ve to go and speak to the authorities about the issues here. Our colleague Buang Jones is already busy looking at the issues around here.”
Living conditions at Setswetla informal settlement
The commission also visited the densely populated Setswetla informal settlement east of the township. Residents in the area lamented the appalling conditions they are living in just on the banks of the contaminated Jukskei River.
Many youths are seen loitering the streets due to unemployment. Residents say they are in desperate need of decent housing.
Nissen says they have been engaging the government on the situation in Alexandra for some time now.
“The commission did the hearing on Alex since 2019 and the recommendations were given to the government, which was about housing and so on that’s affecting Alex.”
The dilapidated Kwa-Madala Hostel was established many years ago by the apartheid government as a single-sex dwelling.
It accommodated mostly men who left their villages in the former TBVC homelands who came to seek jobs in the Northern and Southern suburbs as well as in the gold mines.
The HRC says the living conditions of Setswetla are horrific:
HRC Hearings on the 2021 July unrest continue: 01 March 2022