Deputy Public Protector Kevin Malunga has lashed out at eThekwini Metro Mayor Zandile Gumede after her office failed to attend an on-site inspection of the troubled Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi on Tuesday.
“We are disappointed that the mayor, who promised to come here today has not pitched up. She has not seen the latest unhygienic and poor conditions these people face,” Deputy Public Protector Malunga said.
He was speaking at the hostel’s infamous Block 52 where stakeholders and members of the media were taken.
The hostel visit was meant to establish how much progress the municipality has made since meeting with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Malunga’s office on March 14.
The March meeting centred around a June 2017 Public Protector report that called for intervention to hold several organs of state to account for their roles in Glebelands residents’ plight. During the March meeting, Gumede apologised for the municipality’s role in the poor management of the hostel.
She pledged to work on the ground and do a better job of communicating progress to residents.
However, Malunga said that while the municipality was said to have spent money at Glebelands, very little had changed, judging from what could be observed during Tuesday’s visit.
Sanitation and refuse were strewn across the hostel and one toilet and shower facility was muddied and in clear need of maintenance.
Residents were irate and one resident, Bonginkosi Limako said more had to be done. He said that in his 10-year residency, almost no progress had been made.
“The main issues for us are the toilets and the renovation of the hostels. We have some people living in newer homes while others are still suffering. The [condition of the] toilets is also extremely bad. People get sick and it smells so bad.”
Malunga lashed out at Gumede, who cited security threats.
“We have walked through here today with no incidents. We have had police with us this entire time. Where is the threat?”
He said the municipality had a lot of work to do if it was to commit to service delivery in the area.
“This place is in a horrible condition and it is not good enough for humans to live in. Some residents have alleged that conditions have worsened over the years. The municipality has a lot to do to redeem its own image. It is completely unacceptable. They don’t take the people who elected them seriously.”
Human rights commission hits out
SAHRC advocate Mahomed Ameermia said the time for talking was done.
“We will be taking this matter to parliamentary level. The mayor cannot do this. People here are living in subhuman conditions and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
He said officials agreed in March that communication had been the only issue.
“They said work would be done by now, but we have witnessed little to no progress at all. Coupled with the excuse of a security threat, it is clear we have many issues to iron out here.”
Responding to the criticism, mayoral spokesperson Mthunzi Gumede said they would seek an audience with the Office of the Public Protector and the SAHRC following the site visit.
“The City is committed in improving the quality of life for the hostel residents and we will work with all stakeholders in resolving plights of our people.”
He added that an unrelated municipal worker strike disrupted services and normal working in the city.
“We will ensure that we find workable solutions.”